New research from the University of Chicago estimates as many as 73,000 black Georgians under 30 may be barred from ballot boxes this fall because of the state’s strict photo identification law.
The report (PDF) war-gamed the electoral consequences in three contested congressional races in minority-dense districts, warning a sizable portion of young black voters may be disenfranchised.
Assuming participation rates that track with the 2008 presidential race, the study estimates more than 292,000 black youth will vote in Georgia this November.
Under the best of circumstances, under which 91 percent of those will meet restrictions in the state’s voter ID law, the report forecasts that more than 26,000 will be excluded from voting. That number jumps to 73,000 when only 75 percent possess photo identification.
For the lone white Congressional Democrat from the deep south, Rep. John Barrow, those numbers have dire consequences. His bid was among three spotlighted in the study.
The most recent census figures for the coastal district found a 35-percent black population, a bloc expected to uniformly support the reelection of President Barack Obama and down-ticket Democrats riding his coattails.
Should even a small percent of young voters of color be excluded from voting–Georgia’s law requires electors present state-issued identification, though three-day provisional ballots are awarded to those without the necessary document–Barrow could see a razor-thin margin tip in favor of his Republican rival, the study said.
“With such a sizable black population in [Rep. Barrow's] district, mobilizing voters in spite of the state’s photo identification laws could go a long way toward helping Barrow retain his seat,” the report read. “A significant number of the district’s nearly 275,000 black and Latino residents could be demobilized as a consequence of Georgia’s photo identification requirements.”
But Barrow has twice run for reelection since Georgia implemented its voter ID law in 2007 and minority participation rates have increased in the interim, facts of which the study made no mention.
Critics have argued for years that the measure unfairly suppressed poor and minority voters, but turnout among black and Hispanic voters between 2006, before the law was implemented, and 2010, already the second instance Barrow had run under the new regime, exploded.
Participation among black voters jumped by 44 percent during that period, elections data shows. After hitting historic highs in 2008, the figures dipped in the 2010 midterm contest — but to rates still higher than in 2006.
In truth, Barrow’s margin on the election day won’t be born of voter caging or state-driven disenfranchisement, rather a national political climate not especially hospitable to Democrats of his breed.
The most recent survey of the race, released by a GOP services firm earlier this month, found the incumbent trailing his Republican challenger by one point.
- James Richardson