How Voter ID Laws Discriminate

Articles | February 23 2017

by Vann R. Newkirk II

A new comprehensive study finds evidence that strict voting laws do suppress the ballot along racial lines.

For all the fervor of the current debate over voter ID laws, there’s a startling lack of good data on their effects. As of the 2016 election, 33 states have a voter identification law, with 12 of those considered “strict” requirements.
After the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court case weakened federal oversight over state and county election laws, the debate over whether these and other more restrictive laws have discriminatory effects has mostly been waged in the realms of ideology and intent, with most existing studies relying on data limited by time, place, or bias.

The catch-22 of course is that the laws have to be passed and solidly in place first to have robust longitudinal data on their effects, which in this case would mean potentially discriminatory effects would have already impacted elections. A new study from researchers Zoltan Hajnal, Nazita Lajevardi, and Lindsay Nielson at the University of California San Diego is one of the first to analyze certified votes across all states after the implementation of voter laws in multiple elections, and it found just that kind of racially discriminatory impact. (Read more)