Saturday, December 21, 2013

Race and voter fraud fraud

No shit, Sherlock: voting restrictions are tied to racial factors. In a paper published in Perspectives on Politics (behind a Cambridge University Press firewall, but the abstract (below) is accessible) University of Massachusetts researchers Keith G. Bentele and Erin E. O'Brien find that there is a link between proposal and passage of voter restrictions in states and the presence of partisan racial divides.
Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in state legislation likely to reduce access for some voters, including photo identification and proof of citizenship requirements, registration restrictions, absentee ballot voting restrictions, and reductions in early voting. Political operatives often ascribe malicious motives when their opponents either endorse or oppose such legislation. In an effort to bring empirical clarity and epistemological standards to what has been a deeply-charged, partisan, and frequently anecdotal debate, we use multiple specialized regression approaches to examine factors associated with both the proposal and adoption of restrictive voter access legislation from 2006–2011. Our results indicate that proposal and passage are highly partisan, strategic, and racialized affairs. These findings are consistent with a scenario in which the targeted demobilization of minority voters and African Americans is a central driver of recent legislative developments. We discuss the implications of these results for current partisan and legal debates regarding voter restrictions and our understanding of the conditions incentivizing modern suppression efforts. Further, we situate these policies within developments in social welfare and criminal justice policy that collectively reduce electoral access among the socially marginalized. [my bolding]
TPM interviewed Bentele about the paper:
"We looked at proposed and passage over this period, and we looked at just 2011 specifically," Bentele told TPM in an interview this week. "And you have this consistent emergence -- over and over and over -- these partisan and racial factors are the most strongly associated with these outcomes."
The paper focused on a range of restrictive voter access legislation. That means not just voter ID bills, but also the regulation of groups who register voters, the shortening of early voting periods, and other issues. And these efforts were not limited geographically. Restrictive voter access legislation was proposed in nearly every state in the country during the six-year period looked at, and at least one restrictive change passed in half the states.
According to Bentele, the most striking findings came when analyzing only the proposed restrictive access legislation. There were a "handful" of factors associated with the proposal of more bills in recent years, Bentele said, and "they're basically all racial." States that saw higher minority turnout in the previous presidential election, and states that had more African American and non-citizen residents, saw more bills proposed. [my bolding]
In the key state of Ohio, all of 17 non-citizens voted in the 2012 election. The Republican Secretary of State, who conducted the investigation into illegal voting admitted that the review confirmed earlier indications that voter fraud exists but is rare.

Not having read the whole paper, I can't comment on the robustness of the findings, but I suspect this is just the first of a series of research publications which will explore the causes and effects of voter restrictions. But the way congressional representation is apportioned, political leaders in partisan states are currently incentivized to strive for both increasing state populations (to increase congressional representation) and decreasing state voter percentages (to manipulate the outcomes). It strikes me that one way to demotivate such restrictions and restore more health to our body politic would be to adopt a constitutional amendment tying congressional representation and redistricting not to state populations but to the actual number of people who vote in that state. 

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