During the 2016 election, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took a stance regarding voting rights, mainly that voter identification systems are a danger to voter expression and that it would be best if everyone were registered to automatically vote once they reached the age of 18. Mrs. Clinton pitched the common belief in progressive circles that voter ID laws stifle levels of voting among minorities, serving simply to disenfranchise them. She also claimed that extending early voting and restoring voting rights to convicted felons would aid in turnout. However, recent reports into such issues reveal that such beliefs aren’t quite the case, and that changing to such methodologies wouldn’t be so beneficial.
A report from the U.S. Census Bureau found that voting among African Americans in the 2012 election was higher than the level of whites that did. Despite criticism that voter ID laws had caused people to be turned away to vote in Texas, turnout actually doubled in 2013 from 2011, when the law wasn’t in place. According to the U.S. Elections Project, data showed that in the 2014 midterms, the turnout of the eligible voting-age population in Texas was 28.3%. In contrast, the turnout in the state where Clinton had previously served as U.S. senator, New York, was 28.2% (NY has no voter ID law). Turnout in Georgia and Indiana have showed similar increases. North Carolina, a common bastion of criticism regarding it’s voter ID law, actually saw registration and turnout among African-Americans increase in 2014 from 2010. As a result, it is clear that the suppression claim is not supported. Voters of all walks of life are quite capable of getting an ID and, therefore, taking part in the electoral process.
Concerning early voting, a study from the University of Wisconsin in 2013 found that early voting does not increase turnout, instead actually decreasing it by about 3 to 4%. Felon voting rights are specifically delegated to the states by the 14th Amendment, which leaves a centralized decision from the feds a non-issue. And as for automatic voter registration, the issue risks rampant issues concerning multiple registration databases that exist among the states, which could lead to multiple registrations. Such problems of course exist today, which apparent proponents of automatic voting have noted. Therefore, the risk of fraud could increase. Also, according to data compiled from the Census Bureau and others, the vast majority of non-voters don’t take part because of registration issues, but because of anything from forgetting to vote to not liking the candidates or the issues, to also simply not being interested. Canada passed such an initiative in 1997, and though our neighbor to the north has a higher voter participation rate than here, the level has continued to drop since the 1970s.
Overall, the data doesn’t support Mrs. Clinton’s arguments that ID laws are a determent to the electoral process. Her push for early voting expansions and automatic voting registration would do nothing to curtail so-called voter apathy. At the end of the day, people have the right to do with what is their constitutional right however they want. Mandatory voting would not dilute the power of those who willingly take part in the process and take their time to learn about the issues, but it would also be a violation of the First Amendment as it infringes on those who decide to not vote, which is itself a form of political speech. Perhaps Mrs. Clinton, since she is so pushy of constitutional obligations, would like to set up something where people are automatically issued registration for a gun upon reaching the age of majority…yeah, didn’t think so.
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