Voter ID laws are becoming more common and more strict, and the stakes for American democracy are high and growing higher by the year. New research from the University of California San Diego provides evidence that voter ID laws disproportionately reduce voter turnout in more racially diverse areas. As a result, the voices of racial minorities become more muted and the relative influence of white America grows.
In a study published in the journal Politics, Groups, and Identities, researchers focused on turnout changes across the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections in states that had recently passed strict photo voter ID laws: Alabama, Mississippi, Virginia and Wisconsin and compared those changes to other states with similar racial compositions that had not passed laws. They found the turnout gap between white counties and racially diverse counties grew more within states enacting new strict photo ID laws.
Such results lead to “an already significant racial skew in American democracy growing even more pronounced,” according the authors.
Contrary to previous studies on voter ID laws, the researchers used actual voter turnout data, rather than surveys gauging attitudes towards voting.
“By using official turnout data, we eliminate concerns over inflated or biased turnout patterns from self-reported surveys,” said co-author Zoltan Hajnal, a professor of political science at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy. “This analysis provides more precise evidence that strict voter ID laws appear to discriminate.”