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By Eric Stirgus August 14, 2012

Lawmaker uses Georgia to push voter ID law

Politicians sometimes use other states to bolster themselves in policy debates.

"Look, we’re not as bad as that state!" is typically how it goes.

News quickly circulated to us through the Internet that a Pennsylvania lawmaker was talkin’ about Georgia.

State Rep. Warren Kampf was making the case at a town hall meeting for his state to have identification laws similar to Georgia to prevent voter fraud at the polls.

A court battle is under way in Pennsylvania on the legality of the state’s voter ID law.

"Georgia has a very similar law. They’ve had it for six years. And they had it in 2008, and in those communities which often are said to have been impacted by voter ID laws, the turnout was actually far greater than it should have been demographically," Kampf, a Republican, said.

The comments were initially reported on a website in Pennsylvania, and then the Huffington Post.

We wondered: Was voter turnout higher among some historically disadvantaged groups during Georgia’s 2008 election cycle? And, if so, is there some context to consider?

This is not the first time someone has used Georgia as a case study on voter ID laws and their impact, or lack thereof, on the 2008 presidential election. The speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives said Georgia’s voter ID law did not dissuade blacks from voting and added it’s been helpful.

PolitiFact Ohio said the claim wasn’t supported by research and rated it Half True.

Kampf was apparently talking about black voters. A gentleman in Kampf’s office told us that the percentage of Georgians who are black who voted in 2008 was higher than past years. We asked him for more information to back up the representative’s claim, or to talk to Kampf himself. PolitiFact Georgia did not get a reply. A telephone message left at his office was not returned.

In 2006, the Georgia Legislature passed a law requiring adults to produce a form of picture identification when voting in person to stop fraud. Acceptable forms of ID include a driver’s license, a U.S. passport, military photo and student ID from a state college. Some black politicians and officials have criticized Georgia’s voter ID law and similar laws in other states as attempts by Republicans to discourage some who typically vote for Democrats, particularly African-Americans, from voting.

"We call those poll taxes," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said during a recent speech to the NAACP in which he equated Texas' photo ID law to instances post-slavery in which blacks had to pay a tax or pass a test in order to vote.

Nonsense, voter ID proponents say.

In 2004, about 76 percent of black women and 66 percent of black men registered to vote in Georgia cast ballots in that year’s presidential election, according to data we found on the Georgia secretary of state’s website. In 2008, an estimated 80 percent of black women and 70 percent of black men registered to vote in Georgia voted in the November presidential election, the website shows.

In 2004, black voters made up 25 percent of Georgia’s electorate, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. In 2008, according to exit polls, African-Americans cast 30 percent of all ballots in Georgia. Similar increases occurred among black voters nationwide.

We quickly considered one clear difference between those two elections: Barack Obama. Most black voters were pretty excited about the prospects of the nation electing its first African-American president in 2008. Exit polls found Obama won 98 percent of Georgia’s black voters, the AJC reported.

PolitiFact Georgia spoke to three political science professors with expertise on racial voting demographics. All three said Obama was a factor in the percentage of blacks who voted in Georgia.

"2008 is not necessarily a good base year for anything because it’s such a special case," said Clark Atlanta University associate political science professor William Boone.

Boone said he’s unaware of any data that examines how many people have been turned away from voting because they don’t have an acceptable form of identification. That’s another reason Boone said Kampf’s claim cannot be substantiated.

University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock said Obama’s presence on the 2008 ballot "undoubtedly" was a factor in turnout among black voters. Bullock contends that shows people can adjust to any local or state regulations in order to vote if they feel a particular race is important enough to them.

The 2008 results, Bullock said, "suggest if you want to go out and vote, you’ll do that."

Traditionally, Bullock noted, there are patterns based on education and income. Higher-educated people and the rich vote in higher percentages, he and others say. Emory University associate political science professor Andra Gillespie discussed that point with us.

"The legislator in question here seems to think that because there was a spike in turnout in 2008, there are no barriers to turnout for any blacks," Gillespie said via email. "This is not the group ... about which advocates are concerned. They are worried about those who are poor, less educated, older, don't drive, don't use social services, or who live in inner cities or rural areas."

We couldn’t find any data that examined whether low-income or lesser-educated black Georgians voted at a lesser clip between the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections.

It’s correct that black voter turnout in Georgia did increase between the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, but the increase wasn’t, as Kampf said, "far greater." Also, the 2008 election was, as Boone said, a "special case."

Kampf’s statement is accurate, but it needs some clarification and context.

Our rating: Mostly True.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

Phoenixville, "Kampf Says Voter ID Law Could Increase Turnout," Aug. 1, 2012.

ABC News, "Voter ID: Poll Tax or Common Sense?," July 12, 2012.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Georgia a political plum; Red state gives way to purple," Nov. 9, 2008.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "African-American ballots down in early voting for Senate runoff," Nov. 19, 2008.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "The lessons (maybe) of Georgia’s long election," Dec. 7, 2008.

Email interview with Emory University professor Andra Gillespie, Aug. 9, 2012.

Georgia Secretary of State voter turnout demographics.

Huffington Post, "Warren Kampf, Pennsylvania GOP State Lawmaker, Says Voter ID Law Could Boost Turnout," Aug. 1, 2012.

PolitiFact Ohio, "Ohio House Speaker William G. Batchelder says Georgia’s voter ID law didn’t dissuade black voters from participating," April 4, 2011.

Telephone interview with Clark Atlanta University professor William Boone, Aug. 3, 2012.

Telephone interview with University of Georgia professor Charles Bullock, Aug. 9, 2012.

U.S. Census Bureau, "Voter Turnout Increases by 5 Million in 2008 Presidential Election, U.S. Census Bureau Reports," July 20, 2009.

U.S. Census Bureau 2004 presidential election voting data.

U.S. Census Bureau 2008 presidential election voting data.

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Lawmaker uses Georgia to push voter ID law

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