Skip to main content

Texas voter ID law didn't suppress vote

By Bryan Preston, Special to CNN
November 12, 2013 -- Updated 1719 GMT (0119 HKT)
Bryan Preston says despite dire predictions that the new Texas voter ID law would suppress votes, turnout was high.
Bryan Preston says despite dire predictions that the new Texas voter ID law would suppress votes, turnout was high.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Prominent Texas Democrats blamed the new voter ID law for problems in registering to vote
  • Bryan Preston: But problems due to expired driver's license, maiden names not updated
  • Preston: Voter ID foes say it suppresses votes; if so, 2013 turnout would be lower
  • He says 2013 turnout increased by 63% over turnout in 2011's comparable off-year elections

Editor's note: Bryan Preston is editor at large of the conservative blog PJ Media. He was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the "Laura Ingraham Show" and was communications director of the Republican Party of Texas.

(CNN) -- For weeks leading up to the 2013 off-year elections, prominent Texas Democrats directly blamed the state's new voter ID law for problems in registration.

First, Judge Sandra Watts said she had a problem because the name on her driver's license and the name on her voter registration card did not match. It turns out she had left her maiden name on her voter registration. It also turns out that it is the individual's responsibility to ensure that his or her voter information is up to date. Watts was able to vote.

Then, state Sen. Wendy Davis, the presumed Democratic nominee for Texas governor, said she had a problem, too. Like Watts, the name on her driver's license did not match the name on her registration card. She signed an affidavit, which the polling place provided, and was able to vote.

Bryan Preston
Bryan Preston

Then, nearer Election Day, former Speaker of the House Jim Wright said that he, too, had a problem voting. He said the Texas Department of Public Safety would not give him a voter ID card. But Wright, who is 90, tried to use an expired driver's license, which for most voters serves as their photo ID. How is this the fault of the state or anyone who supports voter ID? Wright got his card by going home and finding his birth certificate, and was able to vote.

We know of these stories because all three prominent Democrats took those voting problems straight to the media.

What we do not know from these three stories is how the voter ID law actually affected turnout.

Democrats who oppose voter ID have consistently claimed that it suppresses votes. If they are correct, then Texas should have seen turnout drop off in 2013 compared with the closest comparable election.

The 2013 election in Texas was an off-year, constitutional amendment election. Texas holds constitutional amendment elections every two years, after its legislative sessions, to give Texans the opportunity to approve or reject items that the legislature has approved for a vote. The Texas secretary of state administers elections and posts totals going back to 1992.

The world watches NYC mayoral race
Ted Cruz makes late-night debut

According to the Texas secretary of state's office, 10 amendments were up for vote in 2011, the last constitutional amendment election before the voter ID law passed. Some issues received more votes than others. The one most voted on received 690,052 votes, for and against. Overall, an average of about 672,874 Texans voted on these 10 constitutional amendments.

If voter ID suppressed votes, we should see a drop in turnout, right? Well, according to the Texas secretary of state's office, nine amendments went up for vote in 2013. The amendment that attracted the most votes, Proposition One, attracted 1,144,844. The average number of votes cast in 2013 was 1,099,670.

So, in terms of raw votes, turnout in 2013 increased by about 63% over turnout in 2011 in comparable elections. But that's statewide. How about in areas the anti-voter ID side predicted should see "suppression"?

Turnout for the 2011 election was 5.37% of registered voters; for 2013 it was about 8%.

Democrats allege that voter ID will suppress the vote in predominantly Hispanic regions. Hidalgo County sits on the Texas-Mexico border and is 90% Hispanic. In 2011, an average of just over 4,000 voted in the constitutional amendment election. In 2013, an average of over 16,000 voted.

If voter ID was intended to suppress votes, it is failing as spectacularly as HealthCare.gov.

Look at Cameron County, which is about 85% Hispanic. Turnout increased from an average of 4,700 votes in 2011 to 5,100 in 2013.

So in its first real-world test, Texas' voter ID law -- which 66% of Texans support, according to a 2012 University of Texas poll -- had no impact on suppressing the vote. It even can be argued that voter ID helped increase turnout. Turnout was up, and in fact, the 2013 constitutional amendment election saw the highest constitutional amendment election turnout in Texas in about eight years.

Opponents of voter ID must come up with a new line to attack it. The old dog that it suppresses the vote just won't hunt.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bryan Preston.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 1650 GMT (0050 HKT)
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1852 GMT (0252 HKT)
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1635 GMT (0035 HKT)
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1533 GMT (2333 HKT)
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT