Georgia’s ‘exact match’ law could potentially harm many eligible voters

Georgia gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams, left, and Brian Kemp on May 20 in Atlanta. (John Amis/AP)

Recently, there’s been an uproar about Georgia’s approach to voter registration. The state’s “exact match” law, passed last year, requires that citizens’ names on their government-issued IDs must precisely match their names as listed on the voter rolls. If the two don’t match, additional verification by a local registrar will be necessary. The Georgia NAACP and other civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit arguing that the measure, effective since July 2017, is aimed at disenfranchising racial minorities in the upcoming midterm elections.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican who is running for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, has put on hold more than 53,000 voters so far, given mismatches in the names in their voting records and other sources of identification such as driver’s licenses and Social Security cards. If the measure takes effect, voters whose information does not exactly match across sources will need to bring a valid photo ID to the polls on Election Day to vote. That could suppress voter turnout, either because some voters lack IDs or because voters are confused about whether they are eligible. Proponents of the rule assert that it is only meant to prevent illegal voting.

But is missing a hyphen, an initial instead of a complete middle name, or just having a discrepancy in one letter in a voter’s name good evidence that the voter is not who they say they are? How would we know?

Researchers often need to match records — and they have to get it right

But although incorrect matches can cause problems, so can dropping records that should be matched but have small discrepancies. Eliminating those records can also corrupt an analysis.

Our analysis found that the “exact match’’ approach would link only 66 percent of voters who were actually the same, correctly identifying about 91 million voters. In other words, “exact matching” would exclude nearly 40 million records that actually did refer to the same voter — disenfranchising quite a few Americans.

As an illustration, using our algorithm, 91 percent of those on Georgia’s voter rolls would be cleared to vote, or 3,941,342 voting-eligible citizens — while “exact matching” clears only 70 percent, or 3,031,802 eligible citizens.

The results appear in the chart below. As you can see, the “exact matching” method misses a substantial share of valid matches. While our algorithm validated 60 percent of the voter records, “exact matching” validated less than 30 percent, on average.

And in keeping with the concerns of opponents of the Georgia measure, nonwhite voters are especially likely to be harmed. The match rates using exact matching are nine and six percentage points lower for black and Hispanic voters, respectively, than for white voters.

Georgia’s “exact match” law is the latest in a string of voter identification measures that critics allege are thinly veiled voter suppression tactics. Whether intended that way or not, Georgia’s “exact match” rule will disproportionately affect minority voters.

The full story can be read at  Georgia’s ‘exact match’ law could potentially harm many eligible voters

My response is why does the ‘exact match rule’ disproportionately affects non-white voters? Why not educate non-white voters and remind them to bring valid government-issued photo IDs? If on doing so data shows racial disparity then one can prove discrimination and address the issue in a meaningful and sustainable manner.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a government-issued photo ID unless there are racial barriers to obtaining such IDs. Get a valid driver’s license or passport. I don’t know how anyone can live in this country without a government-issued ID. If you are here legally and didn’t take the time to get one perhaps, you shouldn’t vote.   If you are here illegally, you should not and do not have the right to vote. The emphasis should be whether you have the legal right to vote rather than whether your government-issued ID exactly matches the voter registration roll.

When traveling if the name on the airline reservation does not precisely match your passport or driver’s license, there is room for error or flexibility that allows you to board the plane to your destination. They allow for errors in one or two letters.

On the other hand, I understand the history of the South and how gerrymandering continues to be used by the GOP to maintain control of political seats and disenfranchise black voters. Throughout US history, whites have always engaged in foul play around election time. They cheat and fix it to their benefit. In 2016, Trump had the Russians intervene to rig the election that he won.   Where are the laws that disqualify the results of such an election?  If the Russians determined the results of the 2016 presidential election, why are states more focused on making sure non-whites don’t exercise their right to vote rather than eliminating foreign interference?  You see whites,  both Republicans and Democrats,  like the status quo. Trust me if they didn’t benefit it would not be the status quo.

Election 2018 is another example in a long list of examples where voter suppression disproportionately affects black voters. We should anticipate this and find creative ways to eliminate voter suppression that deny eligible black voters their right to vote or eliminate systems designed to make sure non-white votes don’t count.   Beat them at their own game instead of crying foul play all the time.

When I see how violent elections can be in other countries, I have to be thankful that is not the case here, at least not yet.



Author: Angela Grant

Angela Grant is a medical doctor. For 22 years, she practiced emergency medicine and internal medicine. She studied for one year at Harvard T. H Chan School Of Public Health. She writes about culture, race, and health.

5 thoughts on “Georgia’s ‘exact match’ law could potentially harm many eligible voters

  1. That law in Georgia has to be a total stalking horse for Cross-check. Gerrymandering isn’t new, but I despise the irony that there’s anti-democratic (as in democracy as a concept not the DNC) plots going on. I know in the South, they’ve been ramping up voter ID laws and in a few states, some DMV areas in majority Black areas were shut down since that’s where most people got their IDs and voter registration there.

    1. Trump is pathological but a genius liar. He can turn a story into a myth to suit his needs despite concrete evidence to show he is lying and will benefit from his lies.

      He is more powerful and known within the elite power structure than ordinary Americans imagined. He’s not going anywhere. Look at how the GOP is changing to reflect his ideology of bigotry. What bothers me is how they use religion and the Bible to justify cruel and inhumane acts.

      Brian Kemp is following Trump’s strategy of blaming Obama and even his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams for voter suppression in Georgia. If the election is close, he vowed not to recuse himself from the recount. As Georgia’s current Secretary of State, he would supervise the recount. There is nothing the people of Georgia can do about that? That frightening to me.

      In Georgia, 53,000 voter applications are on hold for verification in Brian Kemp’s office. About 70% of those 53,000 voters are black people. As Georgia’s Sec of State, he presides over the election process where voter registration applications for black people are on hold. He claimed people can still vote with valid Georgia state ID but how can they get ID’s if the process will deliberately be filled with obstacles that delay the process? If Kemp wins narrowly it will only be because he cheated, but he doesn’t care, and neither does the country.

      1. Genius liar, eh? That’s an interesting way of putting it. Maybe it’s a mixture of being able to spin lies and his supporters wanting to believe it, so they can feel better about themselves. I remember how fast people believed that fake Bowling Green Massacre story as one example out of many. It almost made Reagan’s “welfare queen” story look believable in hindsight.

        Oh, definitely. His business background certainly solidified the elite standing even way before he thought of being the Commander in Chief. That’s the party staying on code and then some by emulating the leader. Good point about using religion as a cover-up. Granted, it’s not new, but it certainly mutated despite the hypocritical elements being more exposed now.

        That’s certainly a given. I’m not an Obama fan, but they way they talk about him as if he’s still president and bashing everything he does is obnoxious and makes him look unintentionally more sympathetic. How the heck does someone like Stacey Abrams have the power for voter suppression? I would bet you money if a Democrat were to use suppression tactics like re-districting red counties or closing DMVs in majority White areas, there would’ve been another civil war by now. The people of Georgia need to get woke to these issues.

        Only 70% of the Black vote? I’m surprised it wasn’t higher since I know Georgia has one of the biggest Black populations in America. What’s next? Is Kemp going to bring in some KKK members to block the polls or have some random brownshirts scaring these voters?

        1. Curtis, It’s probably higher remember the numbers do not come from sources we can trust. If they reveal 70% it must have shown 99% but the numbers were fudged to lessen the impact. These people make money either way. They make money committing crimes and then reporting on them.

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