Hispanics and African-Americans under age 30 were disproportionately hampered in their efforts to vote in the November election even in states without voter ID laws, a new study indicates.
The study, "Black and Latino Youth Disproportionately Affected by Voter Identification Laws in the 2012 Election," shows that voter ID laws are applied differently across racial and ethnic groups, said professor Cathy Cohen of the University of Chicago and assistant professor Jon C. Rogowski at Washington University. Among Hispanic youths, 8.1 percent couldn't vote because they didn't have the necessary identification. The numbers for blacks were even higher at 17.3 percent, but just 4.7 percent for whites.
"Our study shows that without a doubt youth of color are discriminated against at the voting booth," Rogowski said in a statement. "It doesn't matter whether it results from conscious or unconscious bias, the result is that people of color are being disenfranchised and our nation has an obligation to put an end to it."
The Voting Rights Act, which requires states with a history of discrimination to receive pre-clearance from the Justice Department before implementing voting law changes, is in contention across the country. Voter ID laws in South Carolina and Texas were struck down, but the provision faces continued challenges in the Supreme Court.
The study established clear evidence that voter identification laws are applied disproportionately across racial group, Cohen said.
"The uneven application of these laws suggests that polling place workers exercise a high level of discretion in requesting ID from potential voters," she said. "Unless all polling places -- and all poll workers -- apply voting laws in a consistent manner, the very existence of identification laws makes young people of color more likely than white youth to be asked to prove their identity."
The research showed that 60.8 percent of young Hispanic voters and 72.3 percent of young black voters were asked for some form of identification, while only 50.8 percent of young white voters were asked to do so.
In states without voter ID laws, 55.3 percent of young Hispanics and 64.5 percent of young blacks were asked to show ID, compared to 42.2 percent of young whites. However, in states with voter ID laws, nearly all young blacks were required to show ID (94.3 percent) compared to 84.3 percent of whites and 81.8 percent of Hispanics.
Some 85 percent of young whites and 71.2 percent of young blacks have state-issued ID, but only 67 percent of young Hispanics do, according to the study.
"There are many reasons why people may choose not to vote," Cohen said, "but enacting new laws that disproportionately affect particular populations should not be among them."
GfK Knowledge Networks collected data for the study between Nov. 21-Dec. 5, 2012, targeting Hispanic, black and white adults between 18-29 years of age. A total of 3,517 households were sampled, yielding a sample size of 1,522 respondents. The study was issued by the Black Youth Project.
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