Hillary Clinton calls out Donald Trump for being a bigot; Trump goes meta and suggests that Hillary Clinton’s accusation of bigotry is itself bigoted. Beyond looking at what each candidate actually said — as it is somewhat exhausting to spend one’s entire day finding and following credible press coverage of each presidential candidate — there’s a pretty easy litmus test to help cut through the noise. Assuming that bigotry involves taking advantage of minority communities in America, ask yourself, “Which side makes it harder for those same people to vote?” 

Following his dip in the polls after the Democratic National Convention, Donald Trump has recently taken to preemptively delegitimizing his likely loss come November by insisting that the election will be rigged. An Aug. 21 New York Times article summarized this effort as follows: “As he seeks to revive his embattled candidacy, Donald J. Trump has seized on a new argument to rally his supporters and to explain away a possible defeat in November: that Democrats are preparing to exploit weak voter identification laws to win a ‘stolen election’ through fraudulent voting.”

According to information found on the website of the National Conference of State Legislatures, voter identification laws can be found in a total of 34 states — and they certainly will not go away any time soon if Trump and others in his party continue to suggest that, absent such restrictions, our elections would be illegitimate. 

Let’s begin with the fact that voter ID laws are accounting for a problem that basically does not exist. According to an Aug. 6 2014 Washington Post article, only 31 credible incidents of voter impersonation exist in an investigation of over one billion votes cast; my own back-of-the-napkin conversion would put the incidence of voter fraud at approximately 0.000000031 percent. Moreover, “The Politics of Voter Fraud,” a report published by Project Vote, notes that of actual voter fraud allegations, as laughably rare as they might be, when they do happen, even allegedly fraudulent votes often just turn out to be administrative errors and the like: “most … turn out to be something other than fraud.”

So what happens when voter ID laws are passed? A May 23 Washington Post article featured people who have tried, failed and, in many cases, given up on trying to obtain voter identification. 

The first subject of this article is Anthony Settles, a Texas resident who in his wallet “[carried] an expired Texas identification card, his Social Security card and [a decades-old] student ID from the University of Houston, where he studied math and physics decades ago,” only to find out that Texas law requires a current ID. So, in order to be able to vote, he would have had to pay hundreds of dollars in legal fees in order to first find his birth certificate and then amend a technicality in it. Later on, the article discusses the struggles of an 85-year-old impoverished, disabled woman who had attempted to register to vote for two years and ultimately had to shell out $300 in order to get the help she needed. 

Let’s put these struggles into context: a study published February of this year by scholars at University of California, San Diego notes that “almost 20 percent of Blacks, by [a 2014 Government Accountability Office] estimate, do not have the proper identification.” These scholars ultimately conclude the following of states with voter ID laws: In general elections, voter ID regulations result in turnouts 10.3 and 12.8 points lower for Latino and multiracial Americans, respectively; in primary elections, voter ID regulations result in turnouts 6.3 and 1.6 points lower for Latino and Black voters, respectively.

Moreover, for “multi-racial Americans, strict photo ID laws served to create a racial disadvantage where there typically was none … [and] multi-racial Americans voted at almost the exact same predicted rate as whites (a 0.2 point gap) in non-photo ID states but were 9.2 percent less likely than whites to participate in general elections in photo ID states.” 

If you’re feeling saddled by the weight of this evidence, that’s good — you should be. But if that weren’t enough, remember that the UC San Diego study is part of a long body of scholarship debunking the myth of voter fraud and documenting the insidious effects of attempts to “prevent it.” 

But Republicans have continued to defend such laws, with the support from their nominee for president. To be clear, though, the lesson here is not that all Republicans are racist — indeed, prominent Republicans including Rand Paul have taken to criticizing the passage of such laws — or even that the Republicans who do support voter ID laws are racist. The lesson is one of credibility and hypocrisy. 

According to an Aug. 16 POLITICO report, in a speech last month in Detroit, Donald Trump accused Democrats of having “taken African-Americans for granted … just assum[ing] they’ll get their support … [that] it’s time to give the Democrats some competition for these votes.” The best form of Trump’s argument — not that his was even remotely coherent — is that rather than playing identity politics, Democrats and Republicans should both compete in the marketplace of ideas in order to earn consumer support or the political backing of minority communities. 

The problem with this is that in order to truly compete for consumer support, you need to make sure that you empower as many consumers as as possible. Voter ID laws do the opposite: They tell historically disenfranchised members of American society that they don’t deserve to be consumers in the marketplace of ideas.