Saturday, February 27, 2016

238.6 - New study shows impact of voter ID laws on minorities

New study shows impact of voter ID laws on minorities

To wrap up the week, we can tell you that researchers at UC-San Diego are working on a study that so far shows what every sentient being who is not a right-wing ideologue already knew and which a lot of them knew as well but also knew it was to their advantage to lie about it: Voter ID laws do depress voting rates among minorities, particularly those of Latinos, and disproportionately affect Democratic voters.

That is, they are a program of trying to rig elections in favor of the reactionaries by keeping more liberal-minded people from voting. Just like we knew all along they are.

The report, technically a working paper, was based on research lead by political science professor Zoltan Hajnal and assisted by Nazita Lajevardi, a PhD candidate in polisci, and Lindsay Nielson, a post-Doc, all at UC-San Diego.

There have been some studies done that indicated voter ID laws have an insignificant effect on turnout, including among minorities, but in their paper the authors noted significant drawbacks to those studies, not the least of which was that only one is less than six years old, which means they were largely done before the wave of voter ID laws that followed the Supreme Court's approval of Indiana's photo ID law in 2008 and, more importantly, before the wave of strict photo ID laws, those the authors described as the ones "that prevent the voter from casting a regular ballot if they cannot present appropriate identification."

In addition, those earlier studies relied on self-reported voting statistics, that is, figures derived from polls asking people "Did you vote?" Such figures are notoriously unreliable as people - and the literature says this is particularly true of minorities - over-report their own voting histories. "Yeah, of course I voted! Sure!"

So instead, the researchers used more recent data and more reliable data, the "validated vote" numbers from the Cooperative Congressional Election Studies. Significantly, they also checked the data over a large number of elections cycles - over 50, in fact - over the period 2006 to 2012, this first time this has been done for so many elections.

So, after controlling for pretty much every factor other than the law that could affect turnout, what did they find? In a nutshell, in the words of Lajevardi,
where [strict voter ID laws] are enacted, racial and ethnic minorities are less apt to vote.
In general elections, states with strict photo ID laws show a Latino turnout 10.3 percentage points lower than in states without them. The law also affected turnout in primary elections, where Latino turnout decreased by 6.3 points and Black turnout by 1.6 points.

But it gets worse, because they also looked at something else that previous studies hadn't: not just the turnout, but the difference in turnout between minority voters and whites, who overall are less impacted by voter ID laws.

In primary elections, the gap between Latino and white turnout nearly tripled in states with the tough laws, from 5.0 points to 13.3 points. The gap between black and white turnout nearly doubled in primaries - from 4.8 points to 8.5 points. The effect on Latinos carried over to general elections, where the turnout gap more than doubled, from 5.3 points to 11.9 points.

What's more, very likely as a effect of those whose ability to vote has been hindered, the research also showed that in strict photo ID states, the turnout gap in general elections between Republicans and Democrats more than doubled from 2.3 points to 5.6 points.

So: Enact photo ID laws. Suppress minority turnout? Check. Suppress Democratic turnout? Check. Rig the system in favor of the really right wing? Check.

The right wing surely will try to dismiss these results while continuing to screech about the essentially non-existent crime of in-person voter fraud, which is the only type crime these laws could affect.

But behind closed doors, I have no doubt they are reading the authors' paper with glasses of champagne in their hands.

Sources cited in links:

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