Can Voter ID Laws Be Administered in a Race-Neutral Manner? Evidence from the City of Boston in 2008

Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Vol. 7, No 1, pp 1-33

34 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2010 Last revised: 10 Dec 2014

See all articles by Rachael V. Cobb

Rachael V. Cobb

Suffolk University - Department of Government

D. James Greiner

Harvard University - Center on the Legal Profession

Kevin M. Quinn

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Political Science

Date Written: June 14, 2010

Abstract

Is it feasible in the current United States to administer voter identification laws in a race-neutral manner? In this paper, we studied a jurisdiction and an election in which such laws would be unlikely to pose issues of racial difference. We also used state-of-the-art field methods and statistical techniques to account for sources of uncertainty that previous studies had suppressed, including survey non-response. Our results are discouraging. We find strong evidence that Hispanic voters, and reasonably strong evidence that black voters, were asked for identification at higher rates than white voters. The magnitudes of the differences are troubling. We suggest that it may not be feasible to administer voter ID laws in a race-neutral manner in the current United States, and we explore the theoretical and legal consequences of such a conclusion.

Keywords: Voter ID, exit poll, multiple imputation, Bayesian hierarchical modeling, voting rights law

JEL Classification: Z10

Suggested Citation

Cobb, Rachael V. and Greiner, Daniel James and Quinn, Kevin M., Can Voter ID Laws Be Administered in a Race-Neutral Manner? Evidence from the City of Boston in 2008 (June 14, 2010). Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Vol. 7, No 1, pp 1-33. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1625041

Rachael V. Cobb

Suffolk University - Department of Government ( email )

Boston, MA 02108
United States

Daniel James Greiner (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Center on the Legal Profession ( email )

1585 Massachusetts Avenue
Wasserstein Hall, Suite 5018
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
(617) 496-4643 (Phone)

Kevin M. Quinn

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Political Science ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

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