Accuracy in Media

Blaming voter suppression has been the last resort by Hillary Clinton and Democrats in general for her loss to President Donald Trump.

Many Democrats see it as some combination of poor campaign management, an email scandal that wouldn’t die, Jim Comey’s decision to reopen the case in late October and the party’s inability to connect with the working class.

But because it represents the last possible path to overturn the electoral results and install Clinton as president, it persists. The voter suppression theory got a shot in the arm this week when The Nation released a story that said voter suppression “played a much larger role than is commonly understood.”

The Nation’s story focused on Wisconsin, which Trump carried by nearly 23,000 votes in a surprise result that, along with Michigan and Pennsylvania, helped to tilt the election in Trump’s favor.

Voter ID laws, which the magazine considers voter suppression, may have chased enough voters out of the polls to have given Trump the victory, according to their report.

The 2016 election was the first in which Wisconsin voters were required to present a current driver’s license, passport or state or military ID to cast a ballot. The state ranked second in the nation in voter participation in 2008 and 2012, but saw its lowest participation since 2000 in 2016.

More than half the state’s decline occurred in Milwaukee, which Clinton carried by a 77-18 margin, the article pointed out. While white neighborhoods in one of America’s most segregated cities declined little in turnout, black neighborhoods saw participation rates tumble.

The story reported a survey of Milwaukee and Dane counties about why they didn’t vote. Eleven percent of residents cited the voter ID law and said they didn’t have an acceptable ID. A professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said the 11 percent “finding implies that between 12,000 and 23,-000 registered voters in Madison and Milwaukee – and as many as 45,000 residents statewide – were deterred from voting by the ID law.”

“We have hard evidence there were tens of thousands of people who were unable to vote because of the voter ID law,” the professor said.  

Priorities USA, a Democratic super-PAC that supported Clinton, contends the numbers are even higher. It says states that adopted stricter ID laws saw turnout decrease 1.7 percent, but states that did not saw it a 1.3 percent increase.

In Wisconsin, turnout dropped 3.3 percent. If the law had not been changed and Wisconsin voters would have turned out in the same numbers as those elsewhere, more than 200,000 additional votes might have been case.

Given they “skewed more African American and more Democrat,” it is possible enough people were restrained from voting to have changed the result, the article said.

But Hillary Clinton never visited Wisconsin. Her on-the-ground campaign people begged her to come, told her that her lead there had evaporated and asked for more resources a number of times in the closing months.

Voters weren’t that enamored of either candidate.

“Perhaps the biggest drag on voter turnout in Milwaukee, as in the rest of the country, were the candidates themselves,” Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times wrote. “To some, it was like having to choose between broccoli and liver.”

Clinton wasn’t in tune with the state’s concerns over trade deals that cost local jobs. Even The Nation admitted that  “no one thing … swung the election.”

Voters in Wisconsin knew what was required of them to vote. They knew they needed an ID and that the state would give them one if they could not afford it. The ID itself was not an impediment – more than 91 percent of residents already had one.

What they didn’t know is that complying with a law that ensures electoral integrity would produce a result that did not honor the voters’ wishes. They didn’t know that for a simple reason – it’s not true.  

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