Research Just Confirmed This Disturbing Effect of Voter ID Laws

February 24th 2017

Kyle Jaeger

Laws that require residents to show photo identification before voting disproportionately affect low-income Americans and benefit Republican candidates. Previous research has found as much.

But a new study sheds light on another consequence of restrictive voter ID laws.


Such laws have a demonstrable, negative effect on minority turnout.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, analyzed data from 2008 and 2012 primary and general elections.

Their findings offer evidence for the first time that states with voter ID laws effectively suppress Black, Latino, and mixed-race voters.

There are 33 states with voter ID laws, including 12 that are considered strict. In strict states, the gap between white and Latino — and white and Black — turnout was nearly doubled, the researchers determined.

Importantly, the data came from elections in which former President Barack Obama was the Democratic presidential candidate — elections in which minority turnout was especially high.

That's led the researchers to conclude that the effect of voter ID laws is likely even greater than the data suggest.


"By instituting strict voter ID laws, states can alter the electorate and shift outcomes toward those on the right," the study authors wrote in The Washington Post.

"Where these laws are enacted, the influence of Democrats and liberals wanes and the power of Republicans grows. Unsurprisingly, these strict ID laws are passed almost exclusively by Republican legislatures," the researchers said.

Despite these statistics, a significant majority of Americans support voter ID laws, according to an August 2016 Gallup poll. Eighty percent of those surveyed said they favored "requiring all voters to provide photo identification at their voting place in order to vote."

But voting rights advocates are pushing back against ID laws, arguing that voter fraud is rare and pointing to the relationship between such laws and reduced voter turnout.

At CNN's Democratic leadership debate on Wednesday, Wisconsin attorney Peter Peckarsky — a candidate to run the Democratic National Committee — was asked, "What would be wrong" with increased voter ID laws?

"What would be wrong with more voter ID laws?" Peckarsky said incredulously, eliciting applause from the audience. "Is that the question?"

Peckarsky added: "The Republican Party by and large has chosen to disenfranchise people in this country because of the color of their skin. That simply is not allowed by our Constitution — the courts have found that. So that's what would be wrong with voter ID laws."

[h/t The Atlantic]