Virginia GOP could suppress 2% of the vote this November

This November’s general election will be the first in Virginia conducted under the state’s new voter ID law — one of the strictest in the nation — which requires a photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Drivers licenses are the most common form of accepted ID.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that nearly 200,000 active registered voters in Virginia don’t have a drivers license. Virginia has 4.8 million active registered voters. Divide 200,000 by 4.8 million and you get just over four percent.

On Friday, Virginia state senator Mark Obenshain (R – Harrisonburg) penned a response in PJ Media that recalculated the figure excluding military, overseas and federal-only voters to cut the figure roughly in half, coming up with 93,117. So we can say with confidence that a, pardon the pun, conservative estimate of the figure is around two percent.

Mark Obenshain.

Mark Obenshain.

But while Obenshain could be right when he argues that the new law only affects two percent of the electorate, that’s still a HUGE number in electoral politics. And Obenshain should know: had Virginia’s photo ID law been in effect last year, keeping even two hundred eligible voters from casting ballots (to say nothing of 200,000), he’d be the state’s attorney general right now.

Additionally, the gubernatorial contest in Virginia was decided by 56,435 votes, or just over 2.5 percent of that year’s electorate.

Two percent is the benchmark figure that field campaigns use to measure success. If a campaign executes its get-out-the-vote (GOTV) program effectively, it can be expected to outperform the polls by about two percent by turning out people who otherwise wouldn’t vote.

So when you pass a law that makes it harder for at least two percent of the electorate to cast ballots, and a disproportionally Democratic two percent at that, you’ve already matched the Election Day efforts of even the best political operations.

The Post‘s report and Senator Obenshain’s response only put more numbers behind what we already knew about this new batch of photo ID laws set to go into effect in a number of states this November: They are nothing more than the Republicans’ keep-in-the-vote program; a program that’s been executed brilliantly across the country.

Similar ID laws have already swung the outcomes of more elections than the statistically nonexistent voter impersonation fraud they are designed to prevent. While I’m not worried about the state’s senate race this year, there’s a good chance that a handful of down-ballot Republicans will win races by two percent or less. If and when that happens, they’ll have anti-democratic jerks like Mark Obenshain to thank.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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