Totally not racist voter ID laws would only stop 700 000 young people of color from voting

So everyone just chill out. It’s only hundreds of thousands of young voters who would probably just vote for Barack Obama anyway.

A new report from the Black Youth Project looked at the likely impact of the new voter ID laws that have been passed in many states in the last few years. The report, Turning Back the Clock on Voting Rights, confirms what a lot of people have been saying: these laws disproportionately affect the young and the poor, making it harder for them to exercise their constitutional rights to vote. Some of the report’s key points:

  • Numerous studies show that people of color possess photo identification cards at much lower rates than whites. Because young people and lower-income people are also less likely to have photo identification, young people of color are likely to be disproportionately demobilized by these laws.
  • Our estimates indicate that overall levels of turnout among young people of color are likely to be reduced by large numbers—between 538,000 and 696,000 in total—in the states that have passed these laws, perhaps falling below 2004 and 2008 levels. These laws are likely to be especially consequential in battleground states like Florida and Pennsylvania.
  •  In Florida, voters are now required to show photo identification or some other form of ID that displays a signature. Recent polls show that President Obama leads in that state by fewer than five percentage points.
  • More than 100,000 youth of color could be demobilized by these new voting requirements – far more votes than separated George W. Bush and Al Gore in the 2000  presidential election.
  • If Pennsylvania’s photo identification law is upheld by the State Supreme Court, the 37,000 to 44,000 young people of color who may stay home or be denied the right to vote could certainly be a deciding factor in the state’s presidential contest.
  • Across the country, at least 16 competitive House races have photo identification requirements that will likely disproportionately impact minority voters.

The report goes on to analyze the effect of these laws on a number of different minority groups, and confirms something else that a lot of people have been saying: the effect of these laws is to depress voter turnout of the groups who are very likely to vote Democrat. It concludes that “extensive voter mobilization and education efforts will be crucial to ensure high levels of turnout among young people of color in November 2012.” You can read the whole thing here.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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