Last Week Tonight is Back: John Oliver Demolishes Voter ID Argument

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British comedian John Oliver is back with a new set of “Last Week Tonight” episodes, and this weekend, he chose to take on the contentious voter ID laws that have been sweeping much of the nation for the last few years.

The 14-minute-long clip gives a pretty good rundown on a number of common-sense arguments against voter ID laws, including how difficult it can be for some people–particularly minority voters–to gain a photo ID if they don’t already have one.

Most importantly, Oliver pointed out that there’s really very little evidence to suggest that voter fraud is a problem. While estimates vary, multiple studies and surveys have come to same conclusion: voter fraud is so rare as to be negligible. In a large study conducted by Justin Levitt, a professor at the Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, only 31 cases of voter fraud were found from 2000-2014. That’s 31 cases, out of over a billion votes cast in that time period.

So what do voter ID laws really do? There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that they just keep people from voting, particularly minority voters. A new UC San Diego study looked at states that have recently put voter ID laws into effect, and found that minority participation saw a serious downturn. According to the Latin Post:

The study revealed Latino turnout decreased by an average of 9.3 points and black turnout by 8.6 points during primary elections where a strict voter ID law had been enacted.

The arguments made by Oliver in the first portion of the clip are all arguments that we’ve heard before, and while it’s admirable that John Oliver is bringing them up once again–given that various states don’t seem to be getting the message and keep passing totally unnecessary voter ID laws–he then veers off to point out hypocrisy on the part of the legislators in a wonderfully unexpected way.

Oliver delves into the practice of “ghost voting,” essentially when legislators cast votes for each other in sessions. Sometimes this means that legislators vote twice, or that others are voting for them–and they certainly don’t need to show any ID to do so. News Channel 5 in Tennessee looked into Oliver’s claims, to show how “ghost voting” can actually happen:

So, as Oliver pointed out, the same people who are concerned about individuals committing voter fraud aren’t so squeaky clean when it comes to voting accurately themselves. Oliver’s claims certainly add yet another ironic facet to the voter ID battle that threatens to continue in 2016. 

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at amahoney@LawStreetMedia.com.



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