The “disenfranchisement” myth

After much soul searching, the left has found the explanation for the walloping suffered by Democrats last week — “disfranchisement” of likely Democratic voters. Wendy Weiser of the left-wing Brennan Center for Justice argues that “in several key races, the margin of victory came very close to the likely margin of disenfranchisement.”

The race between Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan is the only Senate contest Weiser discusses in which the Republican won. She notes that four years ago, 200,000 ballots were cast during the seven days of early voting that North Carolina eliminated when it shortened the early voting period. The state also eliminated Election Day registration. In 2012, 100,000 North Carolinians registered on Election Day, almost one-third of whom are Black.

Thom Tillis’ margin of victory over Kay Hagan was around 48,000 votes. Weiser believes that the new rules account for Hagan’s shortfall.

Weiser’s case is unpersuasive. As election law expert Rick Hasen points out, the relevant question is: “how many people who WANTED to vote this year DID NOT DO SO (and reasonably could not have done so) BECAUSE of the changes in the voting rules.”

One cannot assume that the 200,000 people who, in 2010, cast votes during the seven days of early voting that were eliminated before the 2014 election did not vote in 2014. They might well have voted on remaining early voting dates or they might have voted on Election Day or through an absentee ballot. Similarly, many voters who would have registered on Election Day had this been allowed might have registered earlier in response to publicity about the change in the election laws.

Francis Barry of Bloomberg, having looked more closely than Weiser at the numbers, concludes that North Carolina’s voting law changes did not determine the outcome of the Senate race. He notes that even with seven fewer early voting days, early voting in North Carolina increased this year by 35 percent compared with the 2010 midterm.

Moreover, statewide turnout as a whole increased from the previous midterm election, from 43.7 percent to 44.1 percent. And the share of the Black vote as a percentage of the total increased from its 2010 level.

In short, Blacks seem to have responded at least as intelligently and nimbly as Whites to the simple changes in North Carolina’s voting procedure. Eric Holder’s expert witness and the leftists who share his views appear to have been wrong in assuming that Blacks are dumber and less civic-minded than Whites.

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