Criticism of a voter ID report by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison continues to grow. The report, which made local and national news with a survey claiming that nearly 17,000 potential Wisconsin voters had been prevented from voting because of the voter ID requirement, has now drawn national criticism and the negative attention of Wisconsin’s state treasurer.
Hans von Spakovsky, an election law expert with the Heritage Foundation, said in an interview with the MacIver Institute’s Matt Kittle that the sample size was too small. University of Wisconsin political science professor Kenneth Mayer and Michael DeCrescenzo sent out 2,400 surveys to residents registered to vote but were identified as not having cast ballots in the November election. They received 293 responses, of which nine respondents claimed voter ID actually kept them from voting.
“That’s not sufficient for a ballot poll. That’s too small a sample to give you any validity,” said von Spakovsky, manager of the Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative and senior legal fellow of the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.
That echoed a concern of Will Flanders and Rick Esenberg of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty who criticized the study in an article for RightWisconsin. “Given the level of response, there should be significant concern about the extent to which the respondents represent all non-voters in these counties,” Flanders and Esenberg wrote (emphasis in the original).
“The reason for concern is that respondents with a higher level of interest in the topic at hand are more likely to respond to surveys than those with low levels of interest,” they added. Given the interest level in the voter ID law, they should have been more likely to respond if the law had been an issue.
Flanders and Esenberg of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty also pointed out that the press release for the study itself said that many of the respondents who claimed the law prevented them from voting actually had the necessary identification credentials to comply with the law. “[I]t is fundamentally misleading to say that all of those who claimed they did not vote because of the law could not do so,” they wrote.
Wisconsin State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, a Republican, is more concerned about the source of the funding for the study. The $55,000 for the survey was authorized by Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell, a Democrat, who was running for re-election at the time.
In a letter to the legislature, Adamczyk said the state should consider cutting $55,000 from the shared revenue being sent to Dane County. “Why was Dane County using its money surveying mostly residents of Milwaukee County, as 72% of the surveys were sent to Milwaukee County?” Adamczyk asked. “I am a strong believer that every dollar of government spending needs to be spent wisely—this expenditure was not.”
Adamczyk points out Dane County gets nearly $4 million in shared revenue from the state.
“It would be my recommendation that the Legislature consider cutting $55,000 from the Dane County shared revenue allocation next budget,” Adamaczyk said. “Obviously, Dane County does not need at least $55,000 if it can be wasted on a survey of 293 respondents. With such a low response rate, that means $187 was spent for each returned survey.”