Study Backs Up What Advocates Predicted: Strict Voter ID Laws Reduce Minority Turnout

Feb 9, 2016

Warnings that strict voter ID laws could hinder turnout among minority voters were right, according to a new study from the University of California-San Diego. It is the first research looking at a slew of voter ID laws across the country, including Texas'.


The new laws came as the result of a mostly Republican-led effort aimed at cracking down on voter fraud. On the other side, voting rights advocates argue that actually, voter identity fraud, where someone pretends to be someone else when going to the polls, is extremely rare. Advocates also argue that these new laws could hurt minority voters, who are overall less likely to have state-issued IDs.

Until now, there hasn’t been a lot of research into who's been right about all this. That’s why Zoltan Hajnal says he and two other researchers at UC-San Diego looked into it.

“We looked at it because there were a series of claims and counterclaims on both sides, and they had to some certain degree some merits.”

Hajnal’s research looked at turnout between 2008 and 2012 in states that had passed strict voter ID laws. That includes Texas, as well as Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and others. What did they find?

“Racial and ethnic minority turnout declined much more significantly than does white turnout in states with strict voter ID laws in place,” Hajnal says.

This is something that groups like the Brennan Center for Justice saw coming. That’s why the New York-based voting rights group sued Texas on behalf of several residents who they say were going to be disenfranchised by the state’s law.

“Every election that happens with this law in effect, someone has their right to vote blocked,” says Myrna Perez with the Brennan Center. That argument, she says, has been backed up by three different court opinions and now, with Hajnal’s report, even more research. Perez says this study in particular also proves if voter turnout were to increase overall, turnout among minorities would still decline with strict voter ID laws in place.

“Just because some voters were able to vote doesn’t mean that other people were, and it doesn’t mean that the people that weren’t able to vote don’t matter,” Perez says.

In the meantime, Texas’ voter ID law is still on the books – even as the state prepares for a presidential primary March 1. The Brennan Center and others are waiting for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to announce whether or not they will take the case. So far, various courts have ruled that Texas’ law violates the Voting Rights Act.