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Frank Barry

No, Voting Laws Didn't Doom Democrats

Voting-rights advocates have valid arguments, but they undercut those arguments by stretching the facts.
Don't blame voting laws.

Don't blame voting laws.

Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

Voting-rights advocates claim that new laws in various states may have tipped the scales in this year’s closest elections. In doing so, they exhibit the same flaw as the Republicans driving those laws: making exaggerated claims based on partisan motivations. I agree with the advocates that most of these laws are unwise, but they do themselves no favors by overstating their case.

A day after the election, Wendy Weiser at the Brennan Center for Justice argued that “in several key races, the margin of victory came very close to the likely margin of disenfranchisement.” She cited the Senate race in North Carolina as one example; here’s the gist of her argument: Four years ago, 200,000 ballots were cast during seven days of early voting that the state has since eliminated. The state also ended Election Day registration, which 100,000 North Carolinians took advantage of in 2012, almost one-third of them black. In last week’s election, since Republican Thom Tillis’s margin of victory over Democratic Senator Kay Hagan was about 48,000 votes, Weiser implies that Hagan lost because so many (Democratic) voters were kept away from the polls.