Voter ID laws may strip vote from 700,000 young people of color

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by Félix Pérez

The number of young minority voters could drop by as much as 700,000 this November because of new state voter ID requirements, a scenario that could sway the outcome of the presidential election.

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“Though these laws are likely to disproportionately demobilize all youth of color, they may have more severe consequences for young blacks than they will for other age and racial groups. Not only do African Americans possess photo IDs at lower rates than other people of color, but black youth also exhibited the greatest increase in voter turnout in 2008 compared to 2004,” wrote researchers Cathy Cohen of the University of Chicago and Jon Rogowski of Washington University.

The analysis notes that the states in which the restrictive laws are most likely to be “especially consequential” are the key presidential battleground states of Florida and Pennsylvania.  More than 100,000 minorities younger than 30 may be unable to cast a ballot in Florida. And up to 44,000 young people of color in Pennsylvania may opt to stay home or be denied the right to vote.

Just as President Obama’s first term in office began, Republican-controlled state legislatures around the country attempted to enact new voting laws that increase restrictions on the kinds of identification that citizens must show before being allowed to vote.

The analysis suggests two possible consequences of new photo ID laws:

  • Voter turnout among young people of color may be significantly reduced.
  • The effects of these new laws will be greater among young people of color than for young whites, with between 538,000 and 696,000 young minorities being “demobilized.”

The researchers described as “disturbing” a recent survey finding that 44 percent of young voters are unsure of the voter ID law in their states.

Effects from the new voter ID laws could extend beyond the presidential election, the study concluded. “Given the fierce battle for partisan control of Congress, these new photo identification requirements could be electorally salient.”

According to the analysis, new state photo ID requirements could result in:

  • 170,000 to 475,000 fewer young black voters
  • 68,000 to 250,000 fewer young Latino voters
  • 13,000 to 46,000 fewer young Asian-American voters
  • 1,700 to 6,400 fewer young Native American voters
  • 700 to 2,700 fewer young Pacific Islander voters

“Given the changing demographics of the U.S. population, in which people of color comprise nearly a majority of the population of youth between the ages of 18 and 29, demobilizing this group is sure to have an impact on election outcomes in 2012 and beyond,” wrote the researchers.

Reader Comments

  1. Every citizen had better get on the ball and get the required ID. Voter ID laws are necessary to keep non-citizens from stealing our elections. Instead of opposing these laws, honest citizens should be helping voters acquire the documents to comply.

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