Texas’ strict voter identification requirements kept many would-be voters in a Hispanic-majority congressional district from going to the polls last November — including many who had proper IDs — a new survey shows. And the state’s voter ID law – coupled with lackluster voter education efforts – might have shaped the outcome of a congressional race, the research suggests. Released on Thursday, the 50th anniversary of the federal Voting Rights Act, the joint Rice University and University of Houston study found that 13 percent of those registered in the 23rd Congressional District and did not vote stayed home, at least partly because they thought they lacked proper ID under a state law considered the strictest in the nation. And nearly 6 percent did not vote primarily because of the requirements.
But most of those discouraged Texans had the proper documents to vote, says the study, which came one day after a federal appeals court ruled that the four-year-old Texas law has a “discriminatory effect” on Hispanics and African-Americans.
The researchers surveyed 400 people who registered but did not vote in the 29-county district, which stretches from San Antonio to El Paso and along a large slice of the Texas-Mexico border. The study found that less than 3 percent lacked proper identification during November’s election.
“The voter ID law depressed turnout in the 2014 election, but it did so primarily through confusion, not through actually keeping people without IDs from voting,” said Mark P. Jones, a professor at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and an author of the study.