Priorities USA is in the midst of a research project analyzing “swing voters” and “turnout voters” in the 2016 election in order to glean lessons that can be applied to strengthen Democrats in elections in 2018, 2020 and beyond. The initial analysis, conducted via polling and focus groups, has now continued with an examination of the impact of voter identification laws.
Voter suppression and strict ID laws are spreading rapidly around the country. For example, according to the Washington Post, “before 2006, no state required photo identification to vote on Election Day. Today 10 states have this requirement. All told, a total of 33 states — representing more than half the nation’s population — have some version of voter identification and suppression rules on the books.”
The central argument for the spread of these laws by its proponents has been that ID laws, and similar repressive voting laws, are necessary to combat voter fraud. However, the evidence is clear that these laws are not only unnecessary but also serve as an obstacle preventing racial and ethnic minorities from participating in their fundamental right to vote and be a part of the democratic process.
And now, although Trump’s presidency has barely begun, his victory and persistent false claims of massive voter fraud are only serving to embolden the efforts of Republican-controlled state legislatures to continue to enact restrictive voting measures for the purposes of suppressing the right to vote – particularly of voters who are unlikely to support them.
This analysis covers the effects of voter identification laws on voter participation during the 2016 election. Specifically, we find that changing to both “strict” and “non-strict” voter-id laws has a significant negative effect on total voter turnout and that these effects are most severe in African American areas of the country.
As a result, we can say with confidence that adding strict identification requirements had significant negative effects on voter participation during the 2016 election.1