A new barrier to participation: Heterogeneous application of voter

Thad E. Hall
Kyle Saunders
Lonna Rae Atkeson
Electoral Studies

a b s t r a c t
In democratic societies there is a tension between maximizing ballot access and minimizing voter fraud. Since the 2000 presidential election, this tension has been central to discussions about election reform at the national, state, and local level. We examine this tension by focusing on the implementation of voter identification laws in one state that has experienced significant issues in recent elections, and that is currently implementing election reform: New Mexico.We hypothesize that Hispanic voters are more likely to show some form of identification than other types of voters. Using a voter data set from New Mexico’s First Congressional District in the 2006 election, we find that Hispanic, male and Election Day voters are more likely to show some form of identification than non-Hispanic, female and early voters. In addition, using an overlapping study of Bernalillo County 2006 poll workers, which almost entirely overlaps with the First Congressional District, we find no evidence that differences in poll worker partisanship or ethnicity produce differences in voter identification procedures. Our findings suggest that broad voter identification laws, which may be applied unequally, may be perceived as discriminatory.

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