Some election officials are pointing to high turnout in Super Tuesday states as proof that controversial voter identification laws, which require citizens to provide official identification in 30 states before they cast ballots, do not dampen voter response.
“We are seeing good turnout compared to what we thought,’’ one state election official told the Tennessean.
"A typical election day," another election administrator told the paper.
Blake Fontenay, the secretary of state in Tennessee, told the paper that he expected voter turnout to be high due to the tight Republican primary, and officials said the new laws had caused little or no problem.
But the Republican primaries may not be an accurate gauge of voter ID laws. Bruce Oppenheimer, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., said there is no way to tell if the state's new laws are reducing turnout. The demographics that many civil rights groups say will be discouraged from going to the polls -- blacks, Latinos, young people, the poor and the elderly -- will not be voting in the GOP races, he said.
"The sample of people who voted early in the Republican primary are likely to be very [politically] motivated people," he told Huffington Post BlackVoices. "Mostly white and more likely upper income, and less likely to [be] voters from inner cities."
"To draw the conclusion that the election official drew from early voting in the Republican primary doesn't make sense," Oppenheimer added. "It may be the right conclusion, but it may not be a real test."
The extent to which voter ID laws harm turnout among the aforementioned groups, which tend to vote for Democrats, may not be clear until Election Day in November. "I think the question is the magnitude of the inconvenience, how easy it is to get an ID that is acceptable, and what the cost of the new IDs is," Oppenheimer said.
Supporters of voter ID laws have argued that they're needed to prevent voter fraud, while opponents have compared the laws to Jim Crow-era poll taxes, which were designed to prevent blacks from voting.