Opponents of Rhode Island’s eight-year-old voter ID law cheered this week when research showing the law stifled voting by low-income residents appeared to confirm their long-held fears. The study from Brown University academics published by the National Bureau of Economic Research [NBER] found that the photo ID law passed in 2011 and used for the first time in 2014 resulted in a “significant decline in turnout, registration, and voting conditional on registration (for more vulnerable groups of voters) in presidential elections after the law was implemented.” After making the rounds among national election law watchers Monday, the study was cited in a General Assembly press release Wednesday promoting Sen. Gayle Goldin’s package of voting reform bills, including one to repeal the voter ID law.
But while the paper drew attention nationally, some Rhode Island officials closely connected with the voting rights push and the group that wrote it were mostly quiet about it.
This includes Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, a longtime critic of the voter ID law who promised as a candidate in 2014 to study its effects on voter turnout and in early 2017 began working with the group then known as the Rhode Island Innovative Policy Lab [RIPL]. The group is now called Research Improving People’s Lives.