As the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court prepares to hear another challenge to the state’s voter ID requirement, a new study reveals that across the country, voter ID laws disproportionately affected young minority voters in the 2012 elections. While just over half of white youth were asked for identification, election officials asked 60.8 percent of Latino and 72.9 percent of black youth voters for ID in November. Similar disparities existed for photo ID, which is required by law to vote in many states, and in states with no voter ID law. “Race should never play a role in who gets to vote, or who is asked for ID in order to vote,” said American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania associate director Sara Mullen in an email. The study, conducted by Cathy Cohen of the University of Chicago and Jon Rogowski of Washington University in St. Louis, also revealed that 17.3 percent of non-voting blacks cited lack of proper identification as their reason for not voting, over three times the 4.7 percent of whites who had the same explanation.
The findings echoed the concerns of opponents to Pennsylvania’s law that the requirement would have a disparate impact on minority voters, since they tend to possess the proper ID at lower rates than white voters.
“Youth of color are, legally or not, asked for their voter ID,” said Kathleen Unger, the president of VoteRiders, a nonprofit voting rights organization.
Unger and assistant political science professor Marc Meredith were not surprised by the results.
“The one thing that people don’t always think about when studying or forming their opinions of voter ID laws is that its ultimately the responsibility of election workers to implement,” Meredith said. “And election workers are not always very trained and have a lot of discretion of how they want to apply these laws.”