Congress promises to probe voter ID effects on turnout
Following the preliminary release of a study recently showing that identification requirements for voters were reducing turnout at the polls, including for minority voters, RAW STORY has learned that the chairperson of a Congressional subcommittee with oversight on elections for House seats has promised to study the problem.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) said to RAW STORY in a statement on Thursday that the subcommittee she heads within the Committee on House Administration will take up the issue.
"Through my work as Chair of the House Administration Subcommittee on Elections, I plan to explore proposed reforms to ensure that these increasingly restrictive voter ID requirements do not threaten the integrity of our electoral process," she said in a statement given to RAW STORY.
Voter ID requirements, she worries, are "essentially disenfranchising a considerable portion of the eligible population from voting." She noted that in field hearings last year she had "heard first-hand from American Indian and Hispanic witnesses about the complications resulting from voter ID requirements."
Lofgren's remarks were prompted by the results of a study contracted by the federally-chartered U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which found that the voter identification requirements in the Help American Vote Act of 2002 may "prevent eligible voters from casting a ballot."
The study was conducted by researchers from the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University. It looked at variations in turnout for the November 2004 national elections, based on voter ID requirements in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. On Feb. 8, the researchers presented preliminary results to the EAC.
Overall, the study found that "average turnout in states requiring photo identification as a maximum requirement was 58.1 percent compared to 64.2 percent in states that required voters to give their name as the maximum requirement."
Turning specifically to minority voters, the study showed that "African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American registered voters in photo identification states were less likely to say they had voted in November 2004 than their racial or ethnic counterparts in states that required voters to state their names as a maximum or minimum identification requirement."
While the full report had not yet been released, a statement by several voter's rights advocates hailing the study offered more evidence from its findings that minority voters were being hurt by ID requirements.
"Latinos were 10 percent less likely to vote, Asian-Americans 8.5 percent less likely to vote and African Americans 5.7 percent less likely to vote," said the statement, which was released by Project Vote, the NALEO Educational Fund, the League of Women Voters, and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Mary G. Wilson, national president of the League of Women Voters, added in the release that, "This data should serve as a wake-up call to those who didn't think that restrictive ID provisions would harm voter participation and turnout."
Testimony to the EAC on the Rutgers and Ohio State study can be found at the website of the Eagleton Institute of Politics.