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New Study Examines Impact of Voter ID Laws PDF  | Print |  Email
By Brennan Center Press Release   
November 14, 2007

New Study Finds African Americans, Lowe-Income Voters, Students, and Seniors Least Likely to Have Valid Voter ID at Issue Before Supreme Court

First Quantitative Look at Impact of Indiana's Voter ID Law Comes on Day Voting Rights Groups File Amicus Briefs Challenging Law

Citing new evidence that Indiana's voter identification law is disenfranchising thousands of Indiana voters, lawyers at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and a coalition of voting rights organizations filed a friend-of-the-court brief today urging the U.S. Supreme Court to scuttle the Indiana law.  The brief is one of more than 20 amicus briefs being filed today by voting rights advocates, current and former Secretaries of State, law professors, historians, political scientists, student organizations, labor unions and civic, religious and civil rights organizations.  A full list of amici and a summary of their briefs is available here.

The Brennan Center's brief comes as new research, also released today, from the University of Washington Institute on for the Study of Ethnicity and Race is providing the first direct evidence that Indiana's voter identification law is disenfranchising thousands of Indiana voters, especially African-American and low-income voters as well as senior citizens and students.

"The state of Indiana has the most stringent voter identification law in the country.  This study makes clear that their law - rather than preventing fraud - is actually disenfranchising substantial numbers of Indiana voters," said Michael Waldman, the Brennan Center's executive director.

The Washington Institute Study

In October 2007, researchers fielded a statewide telephone survey of Indiana registered voters. The sample included a random statewide component and oversamples of African-American and low-income populations.  The two oversamples were targeted based on population patterns at the census tract level.   A second sample of non-registered voting age Indiana citizens was done by random digit dialing.  The study encompassed responses from interviews with 1,000 registered voters and 500 interviews among non-registered adults.

The results were clear and striking.  As the researchers wrote in their report, "In short we find strong statistical differences with respect to access to valid photo identification that significantly reduces the opportunity to vote for minority, low-income, less-educated, and young and old residents of Indiana."

Among the key findings:

  • 21.8% of black Indiana voters do not have access to a valid photo ID (compared to 15.8% of white Indiana voters - a 6 point gap).
  • When non-registered eligible voter responses are included - the gap widens.  28.3% of eligible black voters in the State of Indiana to not have valid photo ID (compared to 16.8% of eligible voting age white Indiana residents - a gap of 11.5 percent).
  • The study found what it termed "a curvilinear pattern (similar to an upside down U-curve)" in the relationship between age and access to valid ID - younger voters and older voters were both less likely to have valid ID compared to voters in the middle categories.  22% of voters 18-34 did not have ID, nor did 19.4% over the age of 70.  (compared to 16.2% of Indiana voters age 35-54 without valid ID and 14.1% for 55-69 year olds).
  • 21% of Indiana registered voters with only a high school diploma did not have valid ID (compared to 11.5% of Indiana voters who have completed college - a gap of 9.5%).
  • Those with valid ID are much more likely to be Republicans than those who do not have valid ID. Among registered voters with proper ID, 41.6% are registered Republicans, 32.5% are Democrats.

The Amicus Brief

The Brennan Center, writing on behalf of itself, political science professor Lorraine Minnite, and three non-partisan voting rights organizations (Demos, Project Vote, and the People for the American Way Foundation), called on the Supreme Court to look at the facts about purported instances of voter-impersonation fraud and the impact Indiana's voter identification law is having  on disenfranchising eligible voters.

"Proponents of Indiana's law claim it's needed to combat an epidemic of voter fraud, but not a single person in Indiana history has ever been accused of voter impersonation," said Justin Levitt, counsel at the Brennan Center and author of the new monograph The Truth About Voter Fraud.

"Unfortunately, that's typical.  For too long the debate over voter fraud and voter identification has been driven by mistruths, half-truths and outright falsehoods often propagated by people trying to rig the rules of the game for political advantage," said Renee Paradis, Counsel at the Brennan Center and a co-author of the brief.

In their friend-of-the-court brief, the Brennan Center examines the falsehoods used to justify Indiana's law and systematically examines each instance of purported voter fraud described by the Court of Appeals as justification for Indiana's law.

The brief debunks purported instances of voter impersonation fraud in Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin relied on by the Court of Appeals to uphold the law in Indiana and argues that "there is no more evidence that polling-place impersonation fraud is a problem outside Indiana than there is in Indiana."

"For years this has been a debate long on sensational allegations and short on facts," said Wendy Weiser, Deputy Director of the Brennan Center's Democracy Project and one of the author's of today's brief.  "Well, there are finally facts and they suggest that the Indiana law has nothing to do with preventing voter fraud and everything to do with suppressing the vote of minority and low-income voters, students and seniors, with a substantial partisan skew," said Weiser.

More information and a full rundown of all briefs in this case is available here.

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