Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Voter Suppression Hurts Everyone

New research shows votes -- for both blacks and whites -- were suppressed in 2016.

By - Oct 31st, 2017 10:26 am
Voting Line

Voting Line

From the beginning there were questions about the narrow victory for Donald Trump in Wisconsin, who defeated Hillary Clinton by just 22,748 votes out of more than 2.9 million ballots cast in the state. The November turnout in Wisconsin, 69.4 percent of eligible voters, was the lowest in a presidential election year since 2000 and a 41,000 vote decline in the City of Milwaukee vote in 2016 versus 2012 was a key part of that.

A recent feature story by Ari Berman in the magazine Mother Jones takes a hard look at Wisconsin and raises serious doubts about the fairness of the state’s 2016 election.  The story comes on the heels of a study by UW-Madison political science professor Kenneth Mayer, who did a survey of voters in Milwaukee and Dane County and found that that 11.2 percent of the two counties’ 160,000 registered voters who didn’t cast ballots were deterred by the Wisconsin’s voter ID law. He estimates that as many as 23,252 voters and as few as 16,801 voters were deterred from voting.

“It’s certainly possible that there were enough voters deterred that it flipped the election,” Mayer told the New York Times.

But Mayer makes it clear he doesn’t know, because the sample of voters he did was only accurate for the two counties he sampled.

Neil Albrecht, the City of Milwaukee’s election director, who tracks voting by wards, believes voter suppression may have delivered the election for Trump: “I would estimate that 25 to 35 percent of the 41,000 decrease in voters, or somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 voters, likely did not vote due to the photo ID requirement,” he has said. “It is very probable that… enough people were prevented from voting to have changed the outcome of the presidential election in Wisconsin.”

But there is simply no way to know for sure. Because the voter suppression that has occurred doesn’t just affect Democratic or minority or low income voters. Mayer estimated that 27.5 percent of African American registered voters were deterred from voting, but also found 8.3 percent of white registrants were deterred. Remarkably, even among high-income registrants (over $100,000 household income), 2.7 percent were deterred.

Mayer’s results echo a study of one Texas congressional district in 2014 which found a higher percentage of Latino voters than white voters were discouraged from voting by a photo ID law. So both minorities and whites are discouraged.

What both studies found was that most of those discouraged from voting actually had the proper ID but didn’t believe they did. The new Republican strategy, as I’ve previously written, is to create confusion and thereby reduce the turnout.

“There is massive confusion nationwide, on the part of voters and poll workers alike, about voter ID laws even where there is no state voter ID law,” Kathleen Unger, president of VoteRiders, a nonpartisan nonprofit group that disseminates accurate voting information nationwide, told the New York Times. “That may explain why during a recent election Myrna Pérez, who directs the Brennan Center for Justice’s voting rights and elections project, was herself told by a poll official at her New Jersey precinct that she needed a photo ID, even though the state lacks a photo ID law,” Leslie writes.

Berman notes another recent study, by MIT political scientist Charles Stewart, who estimated that 16 million people—12 percent of all voters—encountered at least one problem voting in 2016. There were more than one million lost votes, his report estimated, because people ran into things like ID laws, long lines at the polls, and difficulty registering.

Democrats are convinced these problems are more likely to reduce turnout of their supporters. As Berman reports: “A post-election study by Priorities USA, a Democratic super-PAC that supported Clinton, found that in 2016, turnout decreased by 1.7 percent in the three states that adopted stricter voter ID laws but increased by 1.3 percent in states where ID laws did not change. Wisconsin’s turnout dropped 3.3 percent,” by about 200,000 votes.

“Some academics criticized the study’s methodology,” Berman continues, “but its conclusions were consistent with a report from the Government Accountability Office, which found that strict voter ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee had decreased turnout by roughly 2 to 3 percent, with the largest drops among black, young, and new voters.”

Yet it isn’t just Democrats who believe the laws limiting access for voters have more impact on Democrats. Todd Allbaugh, who served for years as chief of staff for Republican state Sen. Dale Schultz, testified in federal court that State Sen. Mary Lazich urged her fellow Republican senators to enact a voter ID requirement in a closed-door meeting in 2011 because of its impact in the Democratic strongholds of Milwaukee and the state’s college campuses, as the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Allbaugh also testified that Republican Congressman Glenn Grothman, then a state senator, said in the same meeting that he supported voter ID because it would help Republicans win elections. Grothman later predicted to the media that the new law would help the GOP win the 2016 election, which is exactly what happened.

But here’s the thing: while all the research suggests photo ID does have more impact on minority voters, it also shows some white and even well-to-do voters are discouraged from voting. Which suggests Republicans don’t mind discouraging some Republicans and conservatives from voting — so long as many more Democrats and liberals are discouraged.

The roster of people denied photo IDs in Wisconsin “bordered on the surreal,” Berman writes: ”a man born in a concentration camp in Germany who’d lost his birth certificate in a fire; a woman who’d lost use of her hands but was not permitted to grant her daughter power of attorney to sign the necessary documents; …a 90-year-old veteran of Iwo Jima who could not vote with his veteran’s ID.”

The cynicism of this approach is truly disheartening. Republicans were unable to provide “a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past,” as Federal Judge Lynn Adelman concluded, but that hasn’t stopped them from enforcing laws that have been proven — overwhelmingly — to discourage people from voting.

Berman tells the story of an African American woman in Milwaukee, Andrea Anthony, who had lost her driver’s license a few days earlier, but came to the polls prepared with an expired Wisconsin state ID and proof of residency. A poll worker confirmed she was registered to vote at her current address, but because Anthony didn’t have a current drivers license or state ID, she could only vote on a provisional ballot, which would be counted “only if she went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new ID and then to the city clerk’s office to confirm her vote, all within 72 hours of Election Day. But Anthony couldn’t take time off from her job as an administrative assistant at a housing management company, and she had five kids and two grandkids to look after.”

Given the history of African Americans, who through most of this country’s history were prevented from voting — for more a century because they were slaves, and for another century because of ruses like poll taxes — it is truly sickening to see how overly technical photo ID laws have created a new way to prevent them from voting, even when they can prove their identity.

But the biggest impact is not on zealous voters like Anthony, it is on average people, black, brown or white, who may be confused or scared by the photo ID law. That’s why the conservative Bradley Foundation helped fund billboards in Milwaukee warning that “Voter Fraud Is a Felony!” punishable by up to three and a half years in prison and fines of $10,000.

The reality is that this approach may also scare off some Republican voters, and the GOP is fine with that — so long as far more Democrats are discouraged. There have been 33 changes in elections laws under Gov. Scott Walker, Berman notes, and many make it harder to vote. We are in the midst of a cynical, un-democratic and un-American epidemic of voter suppression, and it’s the face of today’s Republican Party.

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Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

26 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Voter Suppression Hurts Everyone”

  1. The content of Bruce Murphy’s column contradicts its headline: “Voter Suppression Hurts Everyone.” It doesn’t hurt “everyone.” It is a part of an overall “package” of practices and laws that have undermined democracy, produced a plutocracy, one which thrives on scapegoat driven extremism, and reinforces the greatest inequality in the developed world.

    That package includes voter suppression/voter i.d. laws that are all premised on the lie that there is massive voter fraud, when, in fact, the problem doesn’t exist. But, as the old commentator, Malcolm Muggeridge, once said, “People don’t believe lies because they have to, but because they want to.” Or, in the words of George Constanza, “It’s not a lie if I believe it.”Forget about the lie, it is the outcome that they are seeking, and have gotten.

    Next we have gerrymandering, which provides Republican majorities even when the votes are evenly divided, or the Republicans get a minority of the aggregate. And, as the reactionary right quietly works to wreck the 2020 census, this problem will become even worse in the next decade.

    Then there is the plutocratic influence, the “Dark Money” well documented by Jane Mayer in her book, and, which, with people like the Mercer and Kochss at the controls, drives much of the agenda of the Trump Administration. It is interesting to look at the ways in which Scott Walker and his backers, Hendricks, the Koch brothers and others, have been a prototype for Trump, especially with regard to the environment and social policy.

    Then we have our federal system, in which four right wing senators from states with aggregate populations of fewer than 2 million people, almost all white, have enormous power, while four from two states with 60 million people and diverse populations have none.

    Finally, we have the newest actor in the destruction of American democracy, the reactionary right’s new friend and ally Russia, whose favorability ratings among Republicans have risen, and which will almost certainly be back n the next election cycle since their goal of spreading chaos and undermining democracy aligns with the Republican goal of holding on to power at all costs.

    No, voter suppression does not “hurt everyone,” as immigrant populations, poor people, minorities, “liberals,” and those living in Puerto Rico have found out in recent months. They could have all gotten a preview of these terrible events by observing the Walker administration over the past several years. It was all there to see.

  2. Bruce Thompson says:

    If one walks around high-poverty neighborhoods in Milwaukee, like the near South Side, with a list of voters, there is a pretty good correlation between voting and the condition of the property. I am not sure there is a causal effect, but I do think it is in the public interest to encourage citizens to connect with civic decision-making.

  3. Paul says:

    “Don’t it always seem to go.
    That you don’t know what you’ve got
    Till it’s gone”
    Joni Mitchell

  4. John Casper says:

    Frank, thank you for a thoughtful, well argued comment.

    I still think Bruce’s title is OK. In the long run, being an oligarch isn’t very enjoyable if you’re dependent on private security to protect yourself and your offspring from kidnapping. That’s where we’re headed.

  5. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Bloaney here, Only suppression was the reduction of fraud by the left, and the fact that Inner city males did not like Hillary the crook.

  6. Thank you for quoting Kathleen Unger of VoteRiders ( Please note the correct link to the NYT op-ed is:

  7. Timothy J Haering says:

    Bruce, you may as well be a Birther. Stop trying to explain it. Stop making excuses for the Septuagenarian Baritone. It’s not litigatable or it’d be at the Supreme Court by now. Whether it was voter ID or the 2 worst candidates in modern history [Fat Man vs. Little Boy], we are stuck with the Right Bauer. Hunker down, tell uplifting stories, do your best to minimize or ameliorate the damage, get out your broom and dustpan and sweep your curb, pray Pray PRAY something dramatic happens that causes Melania to say, “Donald, let’s go home.”

  8. Call Bunk on Leah says:

    Whenever Bruce writes you can always count on wcd to chime in with factless baloney. #Triggered

  9. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    This is complete crap. A study done by the Dems shows that the Dems lost cause the Russians made them a loser.
    Votes were suppressed by a lousy candidates and lousy programs. The Dems have become the Green party and across the country, 35 states, cities are being rejected. The one that the Left runs: Conn. ill., Calif are all broke.
    Bruce Murphy wouldn’t know a thing about a campaign even if a bird dropped one on his head.

  10. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    If they hand out votes for Whining, Bruce will win.
    WE had a kid like Bruce, in the neighborhood, when we were growing up. Whined every day. I
    If he could not be quarterback he took his ball and went home. if they lost the other side cheated or he was robbed b the refs.
    Pathetic Bruce we should call him.

  11. Dan says:

    Graet story,Bob,

  12. Mohammed says:

    WI Conservative Digest. Do you ever get tried of being wrong? Your opinion is literally wrong on EVERYTHING.

  13. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Super Flash; new study completed, hour ago, by Wisconsin Conservative Digest in concert with tthe ACU and the Wisconsin Conservative Union:
    Results. Voter Id increase voter turnout. It brought out all the people that now know the elections in their county are honest.
    Pence study will show 10 million people illegally on rolls with California is the worst.
    We also consulted with the Journal, and they told us they did study of those that voted in 2012 why they did not vote in 2016. They all had legit excuses. Most common excuse was that the left has dropped off face of earth They care, left, about Gay marriage, toilets Al Gore, Bernie sanders, idiotic plans for healthcare, Obamacare mess, and they, Left does not have candidates that can be trusted.
    Finally the Dems found out the a Generic Dem/Green party guy would beat Walker. so anyone out there named “Generic”, the Green party i looking for you.

  14. MKE4LIFE says:

    Sorry lefties, you might be too dumb to breathe.
    Excuses always come up, like “I lost my license”. I have NEVER lost my driver’s license it is extremely valuable to me as a law abiding citizen. In order to pass the Voter ID law in the Great State of Wisconsin, we had to start getting ID’s out for free so as not to make it look like a polling tax. Perhaps the IDIOTS who lose their ID’s don’t really value them, since they were received for free in the first place? Interesting basic economic concept. Maybe freebies aren’t that great after all. Maybe the Libs in Milwaukee who have been enslaving my black neighbors for decades, brainwashing them into believing Dems are the only ones who care about them and give them handouts, will eventually be brought to justice for their evil.
    Or maybe my black neighborhood will finally wise up and realize the Dems are only in it for themselves, and their own power. Maybe they all showed up to support Trump. Maybe institutional racism is really Dems declaring they are the party of the victimized and if you don’t feel victimized, they can help you, and then you can vote for them for the rest of your life.
    (Or multiple times per election if necessary.)

  15. old baldy says:


    Show you sources, otherwise you are just another source of fake news.

    And if you really want to be taken seriously, brush up on your spelling and grammar.

  16. Allison says:

    Cheer up Bruce.

    You lost Wisconsin because your candidate never bothered to campaign here. Quit making up stories, dial back the anger and start enjoying life. The election’s over.

  17. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    old baldy: I do not baby sit lazy Lefties.

  18. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    Notice that righties can’t ever justify their voter suppression, or the illegitimate government it creates? They just claim “Scoreboard!” and pretend it gives them license to impose more suppression and other power-grabs which the people do not approve of.

    They seem quite ignorant of what happens to Banana Republics that don’t operate with the consent of the governed. HINT: It doesn’t end well, and often isn’t peaceful or stable on the way to it ending.

    Just sayin’.

  19. old baldy says:


    Well then, what is it you do? Certainly you don’t ascertain facts, analysis a set of circumstances, nor come up with a cogent or rational response. I dare say you are intellectually lazy and willfully ignorant.

  20. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    It is amazing that the public has completely rejected the BS from the Left.
    35 governors the legislatures and the Feds have all been put in place by the voters. Voter suppression, Russia, are just lame excuses for being rejected by the voters. that is our evidence.
    obviously the voters do not believe your BS. Live with It kiddies.

  21. old baldy says:

    Yup, that 38%approval rating sure proves your point.

  22. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    38% is from the same polls that how hilalry winning by 20 last year.
    Fake news, fake Polls.
    Fact is that inners show45-46% and Rasmussen daily shows 43-45%, same that he won with, and climbing.
    Polls do not make law and change daily, meaningless. the left is only in charge of the bankrupt states: Calif. Ill. Conn and few more.

  23. old baldy says:


    No, those numbers are from right leaning polls. Like someone mentioned earlier, you are fact resistant.

  24. old baldy says:

    Rasmussen 43%
    Gallup 38
    Economist 43
    Reuters 36
    CBS 39
    PPP 38
    Pew 34
    NBC/WSJ 38
    Harvard 42

    Looks pretty poor regardless of how you spin it…….

  25. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Where are the polls fro the Dem president? Congress. How are the Dems doing fundraising?

  26. old baldy says:


    Maybe you didn’t notice this minor fact, but trump ran and won as a republican. So your attempt at diversion is pretty sorry.

    Is English your second language?

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