Blacks, Voter ID and the Census

Black voter turnout surpassed white turnout for the first time on record in 2012, according to a new federal report.

“About two in three eligible blacks (66.2 percent) voted in the 2012 presidential election, higher than the 64.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites who did so,” says the Census Bureau in a press release. “Blacks were the only race or ethnic group to show a significant increase between the 2008 and 2012 elections in the likelihood of voting (from 64.7 percent to 66.2 percent).”

Obviously, Barack Obama has something to do with this, but it’s worth noting that the trend predates the Obama presidency. “The 2012 increase in voting among blacks continues what has been a long-term trend: since 1996, turnout rates have risen 13 percentage points to the highest levels of any recent presidential election.”

It’s also worth noting that black voter turnout has been increasing even while states have been implementing supposedly racist voter ID laws. Everyone from Attorney General Eric Holder to the Congressional Black Caucus to civil rights groups and the left-wing yakkers on MSNBC have been claiming for years that voter ID laws harm black turnout and amount to Jim Crow-era poll taxes and literacy tests. But that’s not what the Census data show.

The black voting trend is most pronounced in states like Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. Black turnout also surpassed white turnout by statistically significant margins in Florida, Georgia, Virginia, the Carolina’s and Indiana. The voter ID laws in Tennessee, Georgia and Indiana rank among the strictest in the country, yet the black voter rate in those states was higher than the white rate. If voter ID laws keep blacks from voting, where is the evidence?

The Supreme Court may soon decide the constitutionality of Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which requires that (mostly Southern) states with a history of denying blacks the franchise have any changes in voting procedures cleared by a federal court or the Justice Department.

We already knew that states covered by Section 5 tend to have higher black voter registration rates than the states not covered. Now the Census reveals that blacks in those covered states are also voting at higher rates than whites. How much more proof do we need that Section 5, which Congress intended to be a temporary measure, has been a success and is no longer necessary?

Jason Riley is member Editorial Board for the WSJ

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