senior contributing writer for The Nation and author of Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America.
A new report has called into question whether President Trump would have actually won Wisconsin during the 2016 presidential election without the state’s strict voter ID law. The study published by the progressive advocacy group Priorities USA says the law suppressed the votes of more than 200,000 residents—the majority of whom were African-American and Democratic-leaning. President Trump won only about 23,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin.
AMY GOODMAN: Last year, Republican Congressman Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin made headlines with his comments about Wisconsin’s controversial new voter ID laws, which prevented thousands of registered voters from casting ballots in Wisconsin’s primary. Speaking to NBC, Grothman admitted he believed the state’s voter ID laws would give the Republican presidential candidate an advantage during the upcoming general election. He was questioned by Charles Benson of NBC.
CHARLES BENSON: Take this forward to November. You know that a lot of Republicans since 1984 in the presidential races have not been able to win in Wisconsin. Why would it be any different for a Ted Cruz or a Donald Trump?
REP. GLENN GROTHMAN: Well, I think Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up. And now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is going to make a little bit of a difference, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Republican Congressman Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin speaking last year. A new report has called into question whether President Trump would have actually won Wisconsin during the 2016 presidential election without the state’s strict voter ID law. The study was published by the progressive advocacy group Priorities USA. It says the law suppressed the votes of more than 200,000 residents, the majority of whom were African-American and Democratic-leaning. President Trump won only about 23,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin. Talk about this, Ari.
ARI BERMAN: So I wrote about this study this week. And what they found was that, overall, turnout increased by 1.3 percent in 2016 over 2012. But states that adopted strict voter ID laws, turnout dropped by 1.7 percent. And it dropped in Wisconsin by 3.3 percent, so much greater decrease than the national turnout increase. And what they found, this study, was that 200,000 more people would have voted in Wisconsin if not for their strict voter ID law. Trump only won the state by 23,000 votes. The largest drop-off was among black and Democratic-leaning voters. So they not only compared Wisconsin to other states, they compared it to states like Minnesota right next door, which have similar demographics and turnout rates, and they found that there was a much larger drop-off in Wisconsin than Minnesota, which does not have a voter ID law, that counties with a large African-American population had a larger drop-off. So this is yet another study showing that voter ID laws suppress the vote. And my feeling is, these laws are bad regardless of if they impact an election, because we’re making it harder to vote for no reason. But in Wisconsin, we have a very clear case study that this law impacted the final results of the presidential election.
AMY GOODMAN: The significance of the timing of the commission, two days after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, and also, you know, you have Pence and Kobach as the heads of it?
ARI BERMAN: Well, clearly, this is an attempt to try to distract from the news. Voter fraud is something that plays to Trump’s base. When people were testifying before Congress, FBI experts, they said one of the things the Russians did, one of their, quote, "active measures," in the presidential election was to raise doubts about legitimacy of the election. So, this is something that Trump always dusts off when there’s some sort of controversy.
And if you just look at the people who are leading it—Mike Pence is from Indiana, the first state to adopt a strict voter ID law, which started this whole voter suppression craze. In 2016, the state police in Indiana shut down of voter registration group, raided the office of a group that was registering black and low-income voters, which had a chilling effect on voter registration there. You look at Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, who’s the vice chair of the commission. He is the leading figure within the Republican Party behind voter suppression efforts, behind anti-immigrant efforts. He is a very, very, very powerful, very, very dangerous figure within the Republican Party. Making him the vice chair of this commission shows that it’s designed for one purpose, which is to try to suppress the vote.
AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly—we have less than a minute, but the fact that the census director has now quit, can you talk about the significance of this?
ARI BERMAN: It’s very significant, because the census determines who is counted, literally, who is counted in terms of congressional—in terms of congressional representation, who is counted in terms of people getting resources, federal money, government programs. Often blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans, low-income voters are undercounted already by the census. So if the census has no money, you’re going to see a further lessening of representation, a further lessening of minorities, low-income people counting in society. So, it’s one of those under-the-radar things that has a big impact on democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: And it determines how many candidates, how many congressmembers represent a state.
ARI BERMAN: Absolutely. It literally determines who is and who isn’t counted. So, if the census isn’t getting money, if the census director resigns—and this is all being done in 2020, when there’s going to be a whole new round of redistricting after the presidential election—it’s very significant.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Ari Berman, I want to thank you for being with us, senior contributing writer for The Nation, where he covers voting rights. His recent piece, we’ll link to, "Trump’s Commission on 'Election Integrity' Will Lead to Massive Voter Suppression." Ari Berman is the author of Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America.
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