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Editor's note: The statement for this item was paraphrased after publishing for clarity.
Republicans in the Ohio House said they were acting to ensure ballot integrity last month when they raced to approve legislation requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification at the polls.
Backers of the legislation, House Bill 159, produced no evidence of voter impersonation at the polls -- the problem that the measure claims to solve.
But they pointed specifically to Georgia in responding to criticism that the law would disproportionately affect ethnic and racial minorities, students, senior citizens, the disabled and the poor. All are groups with lower rates of having government-issued IDs, several national studies have found.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Bob Mecklenborg of Cincinnati, pointed to totals in Georgia that showed an increase in voting among all racial groups following adoption of a voter ID law.
"The African-American vote in Georgia has increased dramatically -- five times the amount of the white vote," he said.
"Had there been a contrary result, we might have taken a different position on the bill," House Speaker William G. Batchelder said March 23 at a news conference. "Had this dissuaded black voters from participating, we might have taken a totally different look at it. It hasn't, it doesn't, and apparently, if you do cause and effect in that state, it's been helpful."
PolitiFact Ohio decided to take a closer look at the speaker's claim.
The voting numbers from Georgia -- where photo ID for in-person voting was first required in September 2007 -- came from Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who testified in Columbus for the Ohio bill.
Kemp said the Latino vote in Georgia increased from 18,000 in 2004 to 43,000 in 2008, an increase of 140 percent; the African-American vote increased from 834,000 in 2004 to 1.2 million in 2008, an increase of 42 percent; and the white vote increased from 2.3 million in 2004 to 2.5 million in 2008, an increase of 8 percent.
Comparing the non-presidential years of 2006 and 2010, the Latino vote increased 66 percent, African-American participation increased 44 percent, and white voting rose almost 12 percent.
Was the photo ID requirement the cause of the increase, as Batchelder suggested?
Batchelder's office didn't get back to us. We put the question to William Minozzi, an assistant professor of political science at Ohio State University, who examined the effects of voter ID in a study published last fall.
"Correlation does not imply causation," he said. Georgia's increased voter participation is "the result of a lot of different things. I think you could call this cherry-picking."
"It's an obviously specious argument," said law professor Daniel Tokaji, associate director of Ohio State University's Election Law @ Moritz project, who testified against the photo-ID bill. "A lot of things affect turnout. The last two election cycles are ones in which the Democratic base has been extraordinarily motivated."
Both Minozzi and Tokaji cited the candidacy of Barack Obama, whose voter-registration drive in 2008 was called the largest in the history of presidential campaigns. The drive's biggest announced goal was in Georgia, where it aimed to register and turn out 500,000 unregistered African-American voters.
The actual increase from 2004 was 466,000, according to the secretary of state's office, which cited its own outreach program to get free ID cards to voters as a factor increasing turnout.
A review of research by the University of Wisconsin, responding to voter-ID legislation proposed in that state this year, noted that some researchers thought that such laws might increase turnout, possibly by increasing voter awareness -- "but we found no research showing that effect."
A study published in the Harvard Law & Policy Review concluded only that outreach programs may counter a decline in turnout it associated with voter ID laws.
Over all, UW found that "studies of the effect of voter ID laws on voter turnout find no discernible relationship or a small negative impact," and that "data limitations make these relationships notoriously difficult to estimate."
"You can’t clearly identify the cause and effect," Minozzi said. "There is not wide evidence for one side or the other."
A recently completed study by University of Georgia political science professor Trey Hood found "credible evidence" that Georgia's voter ID law did lower turnout among people who lacked government photo IDs before the law took effect, by about one third of a percentage point in 2008 compared to 2004 levels.
However, the Hood study found no evidence to suggest there was a racial or ethnic component to the dropoff. In fact, the dropoff happened across all ethnic groups with white voters actually seeing the biggest share of that overall third of a percentage point drop in voting because of the law, he said.
"It doesn't affect minorities disproportionately -- they were impacted the same or slightly less than whites by the law," said Hood in a phone interview. "From my observation and from my research, it's sort of a been a wash."
Speaker Batchelder was correct when he said voting increased in Georgia after its photo ID law took effect. Suggesting that the restriction caused the increase is a logical fallacy that ignores important other factors and is unsupported by research.
We rate his statement Half True.
The Plain Dealer, "Ohio House approves legislation requiring state photo ID to vote," March 24, 2011
Ohio Capital Blog, "House GOP Responds to Photo ID Bill Criticism," March 23, 2011
Interview with Matt Carrothers, director of media relations, Georgia Secretary of State, March 29, 2011
Georgia election results and statistics, Office of Secretary of State Brian Kemp
Ohio State University, "How Much is Minnesota Like Wisconsin? States as Counterfactuals," Nov. 18, 2010
Interview with William Minozzi, assistant professor of political science, Ohio State University, March 29, 2011
Interview with Daniel Tokaji, professor at the Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law, March 31, 2011
Interview with Trey Hood, University of Georgia political science professor, April 1, 2011
Associated Press via USA Today, "Democrats post big gains in voter registration," Sept. 9, 2008
The Nation, "Obama's voter-registration drive," Aug. 13, 2008
Time, "Can Georgia Be Obama’s Ohio?," June 16, 2008
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dept. of Political Science and School of Public Affairs, "Research on voter identification laws," Jan. 4, 2011
Harvard Law & Policy Review, "ID at the Polls: Assessing the Impact of RecentState Voter ID Laws on Voter Turnout," March 30 2009
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