U.S. Election Assistance Commission Research Finds Polling-Place ID Laws Reduce Minority Voter Turnout
Advocates Express Deep Concern over the Report’s Findings
Washington D.C—Advocates expressed deep concern today over new data that suggests Latinos, Asian Americans, and African Americans are less likely to vote as a result of increasingly restrictive voter identification requirements. This according to preliminary research presented to the United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University.
Researchers found that in the 2004 election, all voters, in states requiring voters to present documentation establishing their identity at the polls, were 2.7 percent less likely to vote than voters in states where no documentation was required. Latinos were 10 percent less likely to vote, Asian-Americans 8.5 percent less likely to vote and African Americans 5.7 percent less likely to vote.
The study confirms that voter ID requirements keep more minority than white voters away from the polls, said Maxine Nelson, President of Project Vote, a national nonpartisan organization that supports voter registration and voter education programs When you think about the many close races in the past two elections cycles, this documented disparity raises profound questions about the legitimacy of our democratic system.
Since 2004, several states have adopted stricter ID requirement while others have instituted ID requirements for the first time.
The biggest threat to the integrity of our electoral process is laws that prevent rather than encourage American citizens from casting a ballot, said Arturo Vargas, Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, a national leadership organization dedicated to facilitating the full participation of Latinos in the American political process. Reforms enacted by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 established centralized statewide databases and provisional voting processes that, more effectively, help prevent voter fraud. As the research suggests, voter identification laws that ask Americans to present further documentation at the polls are a costly trade off and potential threat to participatory democracy in the United States, concluded Vargas.
This data should serve as a wake-up call to those who didnt think that restrictive ID provisions would harm voter participation and turnout, said Mary G. Wilson, national president of the League of Women Voters. This is one more confirmation that ID requirements have harmful effects. We must recognize that not everyone has ID with their current name and address and we must assure that no segment of voters is disenfranchised because of ID requirements, she said. The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, has worked for more than 87 years to improve our systems of government and impact public policies through citizen education and advocacy.
“The small sample of Asian Americans is disconcerting,” said Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) staff attorney Glenn D. Magpantay. In 2004, AALDEF conducted a multilingual exit poll of almost 11,000 Asian American voters in eight states, the largest nonpartisan survey of its kind in the nation. AALDEF found that 66 percent of Asian American voters who did not have to show identification were required to provide identification.
The US Election Assistance Commission contracted with the Eagleton Institute of Politics to study the impact of ID requirements on voting. Researchers used Current Population Survey (CPS) data from November 2004 to compare turnout data from states where voters had to present a document with their name and current address to states where voters only had to give their names. They then created a statistical model to isolate the effect of ID requirements from other factors affecting turnout. They presented their preliminary findings at an EAC hearing on February 8, 2007. The EAC is expected to release a complete report on voter ID later this year.