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Study Finds Higher Turnout Led To Voter ID Laws

A voter shows his driver's license at a Madison, Miss., precinct, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. Although the state has no Voter ID law, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and other Republican officials suggested voters show ID's as a protest to federal rulings against the voter ID legislation.

CREDIT: AP/Rogelio V. Solis.

While the connections between the effects of voter ID and race have been established, determining a racial motivation for such laws has been troublesome, until a new study from the University of Massachusetts at Boston was released last month.

The study, co-written by sociologist Keith Bentele and political scientist Erin O’Brien, found that states that introduced voter restriction laws in the last five years had a higher percentage of people of color voting.

The study specifically cites greater African American and undocumented populations and higher people of color turnout in the 2008 election as impetus for the introduction and passage of voter suppression laws.

As one might predict, it also found a strong correlation between states with large Republican majorities in the legislature and a propensity to pass voter ID laws, particularly if the state was predicted to be a swing state in the 2012 election.

The study also looked at cases of alleged voter fraud and found that there was a correlation between voter fraud and voter suppression laws, the number of fraud cases had “a much smaller substantive impact” than factors such as race and legislative makeup.

The findings of the study shift the context of voter suppression laws almost entirely away from the shaky allegations of voter fraud and into that of a GOP power grab. As the authors of the study told the Washington Post, “recently enacted restrictions on voter access have not only a predictable partisan pattern but also an uncomfortable relationship to the political activism of blacks and the poor.”

Of course, the information only serves to confirm to the general public was some in the GOP already know.

As the “former Republican” Jeremiah Goulka told Mother Jones, “The more I thought about it, the more I understood why Democrats claim that these laws are racist. By definition, a law that intentionally imposes more burdens on minorities than on whites is racist, even if that imposition is indirect. Seeing these laws as distant relatives of literacy tests and poll taxes no longer seemed so outrageous to me.”

Whitney Allen covers voting rights and civic engagement. Follow her on Twitter @abbyabroad.

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