[Images courtesy of simtropolis]
Dragging out the old "data is good" soapbox ...
Just after the New Year, I wrote about how the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) objection to the new South Carolina voter ID law was a turning point in the debate, given the availability of fresh data on the need an impact for such laws.
Since then, the numbers have continued to emerge - more trickle than flow, but still a steady flow of data that has the promise of grounding the fiercely controversial topic in an argument that is less assertion and more proof.
Thus, for example, we have seen the DOJ say that more than 81,000 voters in South Carolina and more than 600,000 in Texas would potentially be disenfranchised because they lack the proper ID.
On the other hand, we have states like Tennessee reporting figures like 285 voters statewide casting provisional ballots for failure to present the required ID.
These numbers are still mostly estimates or vote figures in an admittedly unrepresentative partisan primary, but as datapoints they slowly but surely (emphasis more on slowly) are bounding the voter ID debate. In other words, the data is building guardrails around the discussion, to the point where someday policymakers may be able to gauge voter ID on a record of how many voters will actually be disenfranchised when compared to the benefits of voter ID.
I have no illusions that Democrats and Republicans will view these numbers the same way, nor that these numbers will somehow "solve" the debate. They will, however, allow the debate to become more about policy - which is what the field desperately needs.