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New Research Reveals Racial Impact of Voter Suppression Efforts

Annie Melton

A new poll highlights one of our country’s most troubling truths: Your race has a major impact on your ability to effectively participate in our democracy.

According to research from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), black and Latino voters are 3 times as likely as white voters to encounter hurdles when trying to vote. They are more likely to:

  • be unable to take time off from work to go to the polls,
  • be unable to identify their correct polling place,
  • be told that they do not have a proper form of ID,
  • discover that their name is not on the list of registered voters, and/or
  • be harassed or bothered at the polls.

These are just the problems voters of color face when they are registered. Black and Latino Americans are also more likely to miss the deadline for registering to vote. Demos’ recent Supreme Court case Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute drew attention to the disproportionate effects of voter registration purges on people of color. These problems persist despite the fact that familiarity with state voting laws is fairly even across racial lines; Latinos are actually the most informed demographic when it comes to awareness about a number of voter eligibility requirements.

Unsurprisingly, the PRRI poll also reveals that Americans of color more strongly support automatic voter registration (AVR) than white Americans. The National Voter Registration Act requires that people be provided the opportunity to register to vote when they transact with state motor vehicle and public benefits agencies. Congress passed this law so that more people – including people of color – would have access to the voter registration process. AVR would streamline this process, making it more user-friendly and reliable not just for individuals, but states, too. Demos has brought lawsuits against several states over the years to enforce the mandates of the NVRA, and AVR is a key part of the voter modernization policy we advocate in our platform Everyone’s America.

These statistics prove the urgency of voting rights work. PRRI’s research also notes that, 3 decades from now, the United States will be a majority people-of-color country. If voter suppression continues unchallenged, then, the majority of Americans could face efforts to disenfranchise them.