New study confirms that voter ID laws are very racist

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

Conservative lawmakers routinely tout voter ID laws as a solution to voter fraud, but multiple investigations — including investigations conducted by Republican supporters of voter ID — confirm that those laws are a solution in search of a problem. The kind of fraud prevented by such laws is only slightly more common than elves.

A new study by political scientists Zoltan L. Hajnal, Nazita Lajevardi, and Lindsay Nielson explains what these laws do accomplish, however. According to Hajnal and his co-authors, turnout among Hispanic voters is “7.1 percentage points lower in general elections and 5.3 points lower in primaries” in states with strict voter ID laws. The laws also reduce turnout among African-American and Asian-American voters.

White turnout, according to their study, is “largely unaffected.”

 

Hajnal and his co-authors also offer a possible explanation for why conservatives favor these laws. “By instituting strict voter ID laws,” they explain, “states can alter the electorate and shift outcomes toward those on the right.” In states with such laws “the influence of Democrats and liberals wanes and the power of Republicans grows.”

As a result of voter ID laws’ disparate impact on people of color, such laws are illegal. The Voting Rights Act prohibits any state voting restriction “which results in a denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen . . . to vote on account of race or color.” And indeed, some courts have struck down voter ID laws because of their disparate impact on minority voters.

Most notably, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, one of the most conservative federal appeals courts in the country, held that Texas’ voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act. Their opinion noted data indicating that “Blacks were 1.78 times more likely than Whites, and Latinos 2.42 times more likely, to lack” voter ID.”

Yet, despite the racist impact of voter ID and a federal law prohibiting such impacts, it is far from clear that the Supreme Court will enforce the Voting Rights Act when it hears a challenge to voter ID. Last year, a federal appeals court struck down North Carolina’s omnibus voter suppression law, after finding that the law was intentionally designed to target black voters and to minimize its impact on whites. Yet all four conservative justices voted to reinstate this law before the 2016 election.

***

Reposted from ThinkProgress.

Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. She was previously editor of the Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog and a senior communications officer. She is also a contributor for The Nation and was previously a contributor for ForbesWoman. Her writing has appeared on The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Nation, The Atlantic, The American Prospect, and others. She is also a board member of WAM!NYC, the New York Chapter of Women, Action & the Media. Follow her on Twitter @brycecovert

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

The Big Drip

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities. 

A rash of water main breaks in West Berkeley, Calif., and neighboring cities last month flooded streets and left at least 300 residents without water. Routine pressure adjustments in response to water demand likely caused more than a dozen pipes, some made of clay and more than 100 years old, to rupture.

West Berkeley’s brittle mains are not unique. Decades of neglect left aging pipes susceptible to breaks in communities across the U.S., wasting two trillion gallons of treated water each year as these systems near collapse.

Comprehensive upgrades to the nation’s crumbling water systems would stanch the flow and ensure all Americans have reliable access to clean water.

Nationwide, water main breaks increased 27 percent between 2012 and 2018, according to a Utah State University study.  

These breaks not only lead to service disruptions  but also flood out roads, topple trees and cause illness when drinking water becomes contaminated with bacteria.

The American Water Works Association estimated it will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years to upgrade and expand water infrastructure.

Some local water utilities raised their rates to pay for system improvements, but that just hurts poor consumers who can’t pay the higher bills.

And while Congress allocates money for loans that utilities can use to fix portions of their deteriorating systems, that’s merely a drop in the bucket—a fraction of what agencies need for lasting improvements.

America can no longer afford a piecemeal approach to a systemic nationwide crisis. A major, sustained federal commitment to fixing aging pipes and treatment plants would create millions of construction-related jobs while ensuring all Americans have safe, affordable drinking water.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work