By Harry J. Enten
Voter identification laws have Democrats up in arms. One of the reasons, as Nate Cohn illustrated last week, is that they disproportionately affected non-white and Democratic voters in North Carolina. This effect, however, only would have padded Romney’s lead in the state by 0.5pt to 0.8pt. In other words, it would only have made a difference in the tightest of elections, and North Carolina isn’t close to being the state that determines the winner in presidential elections.
If Democrats want to be upset about something, they should turn their attention to felon and ex-felon voting restrictions. As I investigated last summer, these rules are quite unusual by international standards. Moreover, they have far more potential to actually change election outcomes than voter ID laws.
In a 45-country study by ProCon.org, 21 countries have barely to no restrictions of any type on felon voting. This includes Germany, Israel, and South Africa. Another 15 countries have limited restrictions. This includes Australia, France, and New Zealand. Putting the two groups together means that less than 20% of the countries studied had complete bans of felon voting. Only 11% of the countries had bans post-release. Even Russia wasn’t on this list.
Compare this to the United States where most states prohibit felons from voting. The two states that allow it are Maine and Vermont. These two states also happen to be the whitest states in the nation. Another 13 states and the District of Columbia allow felons on parole to vote. Most of these 13 states have incredibly small black populations such as Montana, New Hampshire, and Utah. An additional four states allow those on probation to vote. Nineteen states allow voting once release is final. And the real kicker is that 12 states stop felons from voting permanently if they don’t meet certain requirements.