Why Democrats Are Losing the Voter-ID Message War

Democrats have yet to counteract the Republicans’ voter-ID narrative—or their polling—even though most African Americans oppose new voter-ID laws when they catch on to what they are.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The term “voter ID” not only sounds more benign than it actually is but also projects a sense of pragmatism so strong that it feels senseless to reject it. Opponents have yet to engineer a better message to counteract that, and they’ve yet to point to a conclusive national poll—like Republicans do—to show that most black folks oppose voter ID when they catch on to what it is.

In 2012 most black voters only turned out in greater numbers to re-elect President Barack Obama upon hearing the very effective—and accurate—campaign line that largely white Republicans were attempting to snatch that right away from them. The imperative was crisp and easy to crystallize.

Fast-forward to 2014 and Democrats, along with aligned civil rights activists, have no voter-ID counternarrative that actually sticks. A whole lot of folks will be in for a rude awakening when they eventually reach their polling precinct in the foreseeable future.

Charles D. Ellison is a veteran political strategist and regular contributor to The Root. He is also Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune and chief political correspondent for Uptown magazine. Follow him on Twitter.