Majority Rules: The Origins of Voter ID Laws and Their Role in Electoral Strategy Today
Funded by the Princeton Dissertation Scholars Program through the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice at Princeton University
States oversee and administer elections. While the federal government recently enacted election- related policies to make participation easier for potential voters, with recent policies like voter ID, some states have resisted this and have chosen to implement stringent practices that make it harder to vote. Today, despite evidence that voter impersonation is extremely rare, 34 states have implemented some form of voter ID. Public support for voter ID laws is malleable, suggesting that elite action leads public opinion. I argue that voter ID laws are devices that legislators use to retain political power when changing demographics in an electorally competitive environment disfavor them. This context poses an existential threat to their electoral viability when it is unfeasible for these legislators to successfully court significant support racial minority voters. I examine the impact of race/ethnicity and electoral competition in legislators’ support for voter ID bills. This study takes a holistic approach, examining legislator intent behind voter ID laws, by using historical context around restrictive voting laws to establish the link between the restrictive voting laws of the past and those of today in the literature. First, I examine archived sources to understand how voter ID laws developed from other discriminatory tests and devices. Second, I examine why states pass and implement these laws, including what demographic and electoral conditions make legislators more likely to author, sponsor, and/or support these bills. Many scholars today examine voter ID laws through the lens of voter fraud and partisanship, but I argue that this ignores 150 years of targeted voter suppression against Black people, Latinos, and immigrants. After Shelby v Holder (2013) struck down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act, restrictive voting laws have become more common and will continue to be implemented widely for the foreseeable future.
- Matt Barreto (Chair)
- Natalie Masuoka
- Lorrie Frasure
- Loren Collingwood
- Chad Dunn
“Introducing People of Color Also Know Stuff.” with Danielle Lemi and Maricruz Osorio. [Article]
“Jim Crow in a Fancy Suit: The Impact of Electoral Pressures on the Prominence of Voter ID Laws.” (Presented at the American Political Science Association’s 2021 Annual Meeting).
“Listen to Me When I’m Talking to You: The Impact of the 26th Amendment on Representation in Congress.”
“Who Nominates? Racial Polarization at the Nominating Petition Stage.” with Loren Collingwood, Bryan Wilcox-Archuleta, and Matt Barreto.
“Estimating the Effects of Strict Voter ID Laws at the County Level.” (Presented at the American Political Science Association’s 2019 Annual Meeting).
“Perceived Racial Efficacy and Voter Engagement Among African-Americans: A Cautionary Tale from 2016.” with Matt Barreto, Jonathan Collins, and Gregory Leslie. [Paper]
“Relieving the Conscience: White Guilt and Candidate Evaluation.” with Loren Collingwood and Francisco Pedraza. [Citation]
Policy and Legal Writing
Portugal et al. v. Franklin County. (2022) Expert Report of Tye Rush on behalf of UCLA Voting Rights Project – Challenging Districting Rules and Proposed Maps. U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. [Project]
Black Voters Matter v. Raffensperger. (2020a) Expert Report of Matt Barreto on behalf of UCLA Voting Rights Project – Challenging Voting Burdens at Polling Locations. US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division. [Project]
Black Voters Matter v. Raffensperger. (2020b) Expert Report of Matt Barreto on behalf of UCLA Voting Rights Project – Challenging Postage Requirement. US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division. [Project]
“Debunking the Myth of Voter Fraud in Mail Ballots.” (2020) with the UCLA Voting Rights Project, University of New Mexico Center for Social Policy, and Union of Concerned Scientists. [Project] [Report]