As John Oliver discussed on his HBO program Sunday, many states have passed laws in recent years making it more difficult to cast a ballot. Yet there is no sign that actual voter participation has decreased. University of Michigan political scientists Nicholas Valentino and Fabian Neunerhave come up with a psychological explanation for this disconnect. They argue that news of such laws—which are widely seen as attempts by Republican legislatures to reduce voting of predominantly Democrat poorer voters—infuriates people on the political left, making them more likely to go to the polls.
In two studies, they present evidence that “anger triggered by a discussion of voter ID laws can powerfully motivate targeted groups.” Writing in the journal Political Psychology, they show this galvanizing effect essentially counteracts any attempts to damp down participation.
As Valentino and Neuner note, 32 states have passed “voter identification laws of some kind” over the past two decades. While their proponents argue such laws are necessary to combat voter fraud, “the partisan nature of these laws seems well-established,” they write. “Competitive states controlled by Republican legislatures are particularly likely to pass these laws, presumably to protect their slim electoral margins.”