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Voter Identification Laws and the Suppression of Minority Votes

January 2016

Zoltan Hajnal, Nazita Lajevardi, Lindsay Nielson


This research explores the effects of voter ID laws on elections. The authors argue that many of the studies which find voter ID has no effect of disenfranchising minorities were conducted before the strictest voter ID laws were adopted. This study utilizes a nationwide survey of over 50,000 respondents. The study finds strong evidence suggesting that racial minorities’ turnout is decreased by voter ID laws. Specially, Latino voter turnout was 10.3 percentage-points lower in states with photo ID requirements, while multi-racial Americans’ turnout was 12.8 percentage-points lower. These effects significantly widened the turnout gap between white Americans and non-white Americans. Beyond race, voter turnout among naturalized citizens (i.e. those not born in America), was 12.7 percentage-points lower in general elections. When factoring in ideology, the findings show that, among self-described strong liberals, turnout is decreased by 10.7 percentage points when voter ID laws are present, while for self-described strong conservatives, turnout only drops 2.8 percentage points.

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Policy Implications

Adopting voter ID laws can have profound effects on elections. As these results show, voter ID has profoundly stronger turnout-suppression effects amongst those who identify as liberal. Importantly, another inherent implication of these laws are their effect of disproportionately burdening minorities.

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