Politics & Government

New voting laws played role in reduced turnout in four states, report says

Voters cast their ballots, Nov. 4, 2014, midterm election.
Voters cast their ballots, Nov. 4, 2014, midterm election. MCT

New voting laws contributed to decreased turnout in four states, according to a new report released Friday.

The report, by the liberal Center for American Progress, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and Southern Elections Foundation said that while it’s still too early to know the precise impactthat the laws had on contests ‘it is clear that the number of people predicted to face increased difficulties in voting during this election either approaches or exceeds the margins of victory for competitive statewide races.’

The report, titled ‘Battle to Protect the Vote: Voter Suppression Efforts in Five States and Their Effect on the 2014 Midterm Elections,’ examines turnout in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia. All five states were required to receive preclearance from the Justice Department before changing their voting laws until a 2013 Supreme Court decision struck down key portions from the Voting Rights Act.

The five states had new voting laws in place for November’s elections ranging from rules that required voters to show photo identification before casting ballots to decreases in early voting periods.

The report concludes that all but North Carolina ‘experienced sharp decreases in voter turnout from the 2010 midterm elections, likely due, at least in part, to these laws making it harder to vote in 2014.’

Using court documents, analyses conducted by states that implemented the laws, and other sources, the report estimates that 1.2 million voters were effected by Texas’ photo ID law; 250,000 to 500,000 by Alabama’s photo identification requirement; 200,000 by North Carolina shrinking its early voting period; 198,902 by Virginia’s photo ID law; and 40,000 newly-registered voters in Georgia who allegedly weren’t added to the voting rolls.

‘While we don’t know if the outcomes of the elections would have changed, we’re sure that more people would have voted,’ said Deuel Ross, a NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorney.