In the 2016 election, Donald Trump won Wisconsin by only 22,784 votes. Milwaukee’s elections chief stated that his city’s decline of about 41,000 voters compared to 2012 might have been due to the state’s strict voter ID requirements.
While some state election laws never spread widely, others spread rapidly state to state. The last few years saw an enormous rise in laws requiring ID to vote. While proponents say this prevents voter fraud, including Trump, opponents point to the lack of evidence that voter fraud even exists. While some argue that the laws are a harmless precaution even if voter fraud is not a major problem, many citizens do not have any form of identification, leading to many legal voters being turned away from the polls.
While studies on effects of such laws vary, one study looked only at post-2008 elections, when particularly strict state election laws began being passed, and it found that Latino voter turnout dropped by 10.8% in comparison to states without these laws. Multiracial American turnout fell by 12.8%.
Besides their constitutional voting rights issues, these laws may have had an effect on our election outcomes. Because minority groups skew Democratic and whites skew Republican, the aforementioned study found that Democratic turnout dropped by 7.7%. Going back to Wisconsin in 2016, it is quite possible that lower turnout was enough to push the state to Trump. In Pennsylvania, Trump only won by about 44,000, and in Michigan, Trump won by only about 10,000. Considering the size of Philadelphia and Detroit and the high minority populations in each, it’s likely that voter ID laws could be responsible for Trump’s Electoral College victory.
If these laws were deemed unconstitutional in every state as they have been in some states, it’s possible that Democrats could have actually come to a tie in the Senate – Pennsylvania (won by about 86,000) and Wisconsin (won by about 99,000) may have been affected by voter ID, and if Democrats took both seats, the Senate would be effectively tied 50-50.