May 16, 2021

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What Was That About Voter Suppression?

3 min read

Demonstrators hold a rally in Atlanta on March 15.


John Arthur Brown/Zuma Press

‘We have classic voter suppression,” declared

Kamala Harris

last fall, and Democrats keep making the charge. Yet new Census voting data show these claims are as meritless as

Donald Trump’s

that the election was stolen.

Census figures released Thursday show that turnout in 2020 reached a near-historic high for a presidential election, with 66.8% of voting-age citizens casting ballots—0.9 percentage-points shy of the 1992 record.

Turnout was 5.4 percentage-points higher than in 2016, and 3.2 points higher than in 2008 when

Barack Obama

drove scores of young people and minorities to the polls. The share of Hispanics (53.7%) and Asians (59.7%) of voting age who cast ballots also hit new peaks. Black voting (62.6%) surpassed any presidential year save 2008 and 2012.

Notably, GOP states with stricter voting rules didn’t experience significantly lower minority turnout. Black turnout was highest in Maryland (75.3%) followed by Mississippi (72.8%) and lowest in Massachusetts (36.4%). Liberals have lambasted Georgia for “purging” voters and restricting ballot access. But Georgia had a smaller black-white voting gap than Illinois, New Jersey, Virginia and California—all states controlled by Democrats.

The states with the biggest black-white voting gaps? Massachusetts, Oregon, Wisconsin, Iowa and Colorado. Three allow same-day voter registration (Wisconsin, Iowa, and Colorado), according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Good luck trying to discern a link between a state’s voting rules, partisan control and minority turnout.

Perhaps no state has done more to make it easier to vote than California. It allows same-day registration, ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct voting. Arizona doesn’t allow any of these practices, yet it had higher turnout among all minority groups and smaller voting disparities with whites than California.

The Supreme Court has heard a case this term brought by Democrats challenging Arizona’s ban on ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct voting. Democrats claim without evidence that Arizona’s rules disproportionately affect minorities and violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The 2020 election shows otherwise.

Democrats also say the Supreme Court unleashed voter suppression by striking down a Voting Rights Act provision that allowed the Justice Department to block changes to voting rules in states with histories of discrimination. But the high minority turnout in states like Georgia and Mississippi reaffirms the Court’s ruling that the provision was outdated.

Democrats know their complaints are false, but they repeat them to energize apathetic voters. The top reasons Americans gave for not voting last fall: Not interested (17.6%), did not like candidates/campaign issues (14.5%), too busy/conflicting schedule (13.1%) and forgot (13%). Few cited an inconvenient polling place (2.6%) or registration problems (4.9%). Differences across racial groups were small.

Myriad factors including the candidates, a person’s political and civic engagement as well as education are bigger determinants of voting than the ease of casting a ballot. Cynicism fed by politicians of both parties may also disillusion would-be voters. The good news is that most voters don’t see voter suppression—and their turnout proves it.

Journal Editorial Report: Wokeness overwhelms a state’s election law. Images: AFP/Reuters/Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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Appeared in the May 4, 2021, print edition.

2021-05-03 18:33:00

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