Year-End Review of Voter Suppression, Voter ID Laws, from NY Times

Today’s NY Times article “Black Turnout in Alabama Complicates Debate on Voting Laws”     reviews recent research on the effects of voter ID laws in recent elections, with a particular emphasis on the Doug Jones victory in Alabama. As the Times points out, research on voter ID laws in Texas, Wisconsin and other states has been ambiguous about how and to what extent those laws actually suppress turnout. For example Eitan Hersh, a Tufts University political scientist who contributed to the analysis of Texas’ strict voter ID law, said research indicated that voter ID laws could alter very close elections but might not be as influential as some critics claim.

“These laws are complicated to assess,” Mr. Hersh said. “Alabama was a place where there was a lot of campaigning, and when campaigns liven up, you have a lot of mobilization efforts” that could offset the effect of an ID law on turnout.

One recent study, “Voter Identification Laws and the Suppression of Minority Votes” concluded that the historic turnout gap between white and minority voters increased sharply — as much as fivefold — in states with the strictest voter ID laws, producing a “clear partisan distortion” favoring Republicans.

In Texas, where federal courts have invalidated parts of one of the nation’s toughest ID laws, a detailed analysis concluded that 3.6 percent of white registered voters in Texas lacked any legally acceptable ID — and 5.7 percent of Hispanic voters, and 7.5 percent of African-Americans. But among more likely voters who cast ballots in the 2010 and 2012 elections, only 1.4 percent lacked a valid ID. An estimated 600,000 registered voters lacked a photo ID that qualified them to vote under the law.

Still other studies in Texas and Wisconsin concluded that confusion over voter ID laws meant that more people who actually had valid IDs but believed they did not stayed home on Election Day than did voters who actually lacked identification.

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