Participate in a Voter ID Study

Followers of election news will see that voter ID laws are a hot topic. Several courts have found they unconstitutionally restrict voting rights, based on demographics showing the laws would disproportionately affect minority voters and thus, absent evidence of voter fraud, cannot be justified.

Except for studies by statistics students in the 2014 election, there is little to show the actual impact—that is, how many have the laws kept from voting? Results from Dallas, Philadelphia, and Northern Virginia showed about 2% of potential voters were turned away from the polls because they lacked appropriate IDs, adversely affecting low-income and minority potential voters.

Many states still have restrictive laws—laws that may keep hundreds of thousands of those otherwise eligible from voting … or maybe not. You can be part of gathering the data. It is relatively easy to do.

Faculty or students in a survey sampling course can create a sample design based on census data for the economic and racial composition of precincts. Students in statistics classes at all levels can conduct the interviews at the sample precincts, asking “Did you come here to vote? Were you able to vote? If not, why not?” Gender, ethnicity, and age can be observational variables. Depending on the expertise of the students, analyses can vary from simple t-tests to logistic regression. Results could influence the future of voter IDs.

But if all this seems too complex, just pick some convenient precincts and involve students in gathering data. It’s a great way to engender enthusiasm and appreciation for the role of statistics in public policy. Make the project part of your course this fall.

For more information, a draft report, and a planning packet, contact Mary Gray at mgray@american.edu.

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