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Max Brantley Has No ID

Updated: Apr 13


Liberal blogumnist Max Brantley is setting new records on the outrageometer.  In a recent tirade against Voter ID laws — which the majority of Americans support, by a 3-to-1 margin in one recent poll — Brantley makes several demonstrably false claims.

Despite no evidence of a single case of voter impersonation at the polls, Republicans push for these laws. Why? Maybe to disqualify the 10 elderly nuns denied a ballot in Indiana. Or maybe to bar college students whose photo IDs were insufficient because they didn’t contain their dorm room number. Or maybe to block poor people who can’t get a state ID because THEY DON’T HAVE AN ID to qualify for an ID. It’s insidious, anti-American and wildly successful at suppressing the privilege that so many Republicans claim as sacred as they spit on it for people who aren’t like them. They’ve even brought back poll taxes in required fees for the IDs.

So let’s take these distortions one at a time.

Brantley Distortion #1: No evidence exists of a single case of voter impersonation at the polls.  (He’s careful to qualify this statement with “at the polls” because, well…)  This claim is easily proven false by a simple Google search.  Here is one New York City case, reported on by The Heritage Foundation:

The grand jury detailed a widespread conspiracy that operated without detection for 14 years in Brooklyn. This conspiracy involved not only impersonation of legitimate voters at the polls, but also voting under fictitious names. As a result, thousands of fraudulent votes were cast in state and congressional elections. One of the witnesses before the grand jury described how he led a crew of eight individuals from polling place to polling place to vote. Each member of his crew voted in excess of 20 times, and there were approximately 20 other such crews operating during that election.

Other examples of vote fraud are also listed in that same story.

Brantley Distortion #2: The 10 nuns were disqualified from voting and denied a ballot in Indiana.  A closer look at this story reveals that the nuns could easily have voted if they had wanted to.  From The Wall Street Journal:

The nuns had all been told earlier that they would need an up-to-date ID to vote. But none of them had asked to be taken to get an ID, and some flatly said they did not want to. Then on Election Day the nuns all showed up to vote. They could have been given provisional ballots, which would have counted if they had shown up at a county clerk’s office within 10 days to show an ID or sign an affidavit testifying to their identity. The nuns would have none of it. According to the Associated Press, they told Sister McGuire that they were not interested in getting an official state ID.

In short, this was political theatre cooked up by activists in habits. The WSJ also reported that the nun running the polling location declined to offer the nuns a provisional ballot because she decided it was “futile.”

Furthermore, there are also provisions provided for the elderly under the Indiana law:

But if their mobility is restricted, the Indiana law provides other ways in which they could have voted. Nursing homes can get a waiver of the ID requirement for residents to vote. And any Indianan over 65 is automatically eligible to cast an absentee ballot.

To summarize: the nun anecdote is a manufactured non-event designed to inflame credulous partisans who want to believe in vast conspiracies to deny voting rights. It’s acceptable that ordinary citizens swallow this sort of thing whole, but we’re entitled to expect better from those who would call themselves journalists.

Brantley Distortion #3: Voter ID laws keep poor people from voting. This claim is also demonstrably false. In fact, there are provisions made for those who cannot afford IDs.  Indeed,  every state that has implemented a voter ID law has also made free IDs available to voters who don’t have them:

Kansas has a new voter ID law. Through May of this year, only 32 out of 1.7 million registered voters have applied for a free photo ID because they didn’t already have one. In most of the six years that Georgia has had a voter ID law in place, fewer than 0.05 percent of the state’s 6 million registered voters have received free IDs.

Facts are stubborn things.

Brantley Distortion #4: Voter ID suppresses turnout. I don’t believe that there’s any evidence for this, but there’s certainly plenty of evidence that debunks his claim.  Here are just a few pieces, from Heritage:


  1. A study by the University of Missouri on turnout in Indiana showed that turnout actually increased by about 2 percentage points overall in Indiana in 2006 in the first election after the voter ID law went into effect. There was no evidence that counties with higher percentages of minority, poor, elderly, or less-educated populations suffered any reduction in voter turnout. In fact, “the only consistent and statistically significant impact of photo ID in Indiana is to increase voter turnout in counties with a greater percentage of Democrats relative to other counties.”

  2. A study by the University of Delaware and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln examined data from the 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006 elections. At both the aggregate and individual levels, the study found that voter ID laws do not affect turnout, including across racial/ethnic/socioeconomic lines. The study concludes that “concerns about voter identification laws affecting turnout are much ado about nothing.”

  3. A survey by American University of registered voters in Maryland, Indiana, and Mississippi to see whether registered voters had photo IDs concluded that “showing a photo ID as a requirement of voting does not appear to be a serious problem in any of the states” because “[a]lmost all registered voters have an acceptable form of photo ID.” Less than 0.5 percent of respondents had neither a photo ID nor citizenship documentation. A 2008 election survey of 12,000 registered voters in all 50 states found that fewer than nine people were unable to vote because of voter ID requirements.

You were saying, Max?

Brantley Distortion #5: Republicans brought back poll taxes in the form of ID fees.  Again, every state that has implemented voter ID laws have made IDs available free to those who could not afford them.  So what exactly is the “tax” Max speaks of?  Perhaps it’s the tax on the gas that is required to drive to the DMV and pick up the free ID?  Or the sales tax on the wallet required to store the ID?  I’m really not sure.

I admit it: I have no idea what anecdote Max is referring to when he claims that college kids were turned away at the polls because their photo ID didn’t contain a dorm number. But based on Max’s terrible record with respect to accuracy, I’m not sure I see why I should take this alleged occurrence at face value either. As a general matter, the facts are not on the side of opponents of voter ID laws. States that have enacted these reforms have seen positive results; the “concerns” raised by Brantley and others are essentially meritless. Voter ID is a reasonable, responsible way to shrink vote fraud in Arkansas.

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