Don’t let Trump’s grocery store comment distract you from the real issue: Voter suppression
President Donald Trump has been making dubious claims about voter fraud (and getting called out for it) since he was campaigning for office. And last night, July 31st, the president suggested that all voters should be required to show photo ID like they do for “everything else”…which could have huge implications for voters of color.
According to CNN, Trump appeared to support voter ID laws when speaking at a rally in Tampa, Florida for Representative Ron DeSantis, who’s running for governor. The president argued that voter ID laws make sense because U.S. citizens have to show photo ID for “everything else,” including groceries.
"We believe that only American citizens should vote in American elections. Which is why the time has come for voter ID like everything else," Trump told the crowd. "Voter ID. If you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card, you need ID. You go out and you want to buy anything, you need ID. And you need your picture."
Many viewers quickly took to Twitter to call out the groceries comment, joking that the president has seemingly never been grocery shopping in his life—you’re actually not required to show ID in most circumstances (though, to be fair, it’s definitely possible when you pay by credit card).
But make no mistake: the questionable comment is far less important than the president’s call to implement voter ID laws.
While not all states have strict voter ID laws, some states, like Alabama, require citizens to present a government-issued photo ID before entering the photo booth. As the nonprofit ProPublica reports, before 2006, only first-time voters were required to provide identification or a recent bill with their address.
A January 2017 study from the University of California, San Diego found that the gap in voter turnout between white voters and voters of color increases substantially in places where official ID is required, likely because driver’s licenses and passports are less common among disenfranchised groups. In general elections, the difference in turnout widens by 8.3% for Latino voters, 5% for Asian voters, and 2.2% for black voters. The researchers also noted that, since people of color are more likely to vote for Democratic candidates, voter ID laws give Republicans an edge.
As for the alleged “voter fraud” that these laws are meant to prevent, there’s almost no evidence that it actually happens. The New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice notes that the rate of non-citizens voting in elections is incredibly low, and that there were only four documented cases of voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election.
The bottom line is that voter ID laws place unnecessary restrictions on disenfranchised populations. Let’s worry less about Trump’s grocery store comment and more about the the voter suppression tactics he’s currently endorsing.