As the state Supreme Court mulls the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s voter ID law, a new study adds some context to the debate. The study, commissioned by the AFL-CIO, found that between 35,239 and 36,613 did not come out to vote last year because of confusion arising from the passage of the law, which was not actually in effect. The union conducted the study by measuring the turnout among those registered voters with ID and those without ID, figuring that those who didn’t thought their ballots wouldn’t be counted. They found that those without ID were half as likely to vote as those with ID. And those people, by a 2.5-to-1 margin, tended to be Democrats.
Now, you might say: What if those without ID are just less likely to vote in the first place? (Also: “Why should I trust a labor union’s figures on such a politically charged issue?”) Well, the study controlled for that, comparing only voters who had had the same pre-election propensity to vote. Ironically, these results jive pretty well with the comments made last week by state GOP chairman Rob Gleason, who made a classic “Kinsley Gaffe,” estimating that Obama’s margin of victory (300k in 2012 vs. 600k in 2008) was hampered by voter ID. If the 35,000 figure is accurate, then Gleason was in fact being overly optimistic about the effect of the law. If it’s allowed to stand, however, there will be more than just confusion to deal with: The state says 758,000 registered voters lack proper ID. The greatest area of lost turnout, for what it’s worth, was in West Philadelphia.