An interesting new article by Keith Bentele and Erin O’Brien at the University of Massachusetts, Boston came out in the December 2013 Perspectives on Politics. Titled “Jim Crow 2.0? Why States Consider and Adopt Restrictive Voter Access Policies.” It should be of interest to everyone in the political science, law, and policy side of election administration. (Hat tip to the Monkey Cage, which features a guest post by the authors.)
Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in state legislation likely to reduce access for some voters, including photo identiﬁcation and proof of citizenship requirements, registration restrictions, absentee ballot voting restrictions, and reductions in early voting. Political operatives often ascribe malicious motives when their opponents either endorse or oppose such legislation. In an effort to bring empirical clarity and epistemological standards to what has been a deeply-charged, partisan, and frequently anecdotal debate, we use multiple specialized regression approaches to examine factors associated with both the proposal and adoption of restrictive voter access legislation from 2006–2011. Our results indicate that proposal and passage are highly partisan, strategic, and racialized affairs. These ﬁndings are consistent with a scenario in which the targeted demobilization of minority voters and African Americans is a central driver of recent legislative developments.We discuss the implications of these results for current partisan and legal debates regarding voter restrictions and our understanding of the conditions incentivizing modern suppression efforts. Further, we situate these policies within developments in social welfare and criminal justice policy that collectively reduce electoral access among the socially marginalized.