Priorities USA Unveils Findings of Voter Suppression Study Showing Significant Decrease in Voter Turnout in 2016 Election in States with Strict ID Laws

May 09, 2017

May 9, 2017

Contact: Symone Sanders, [email protected]


Analysis Also Suggests Voter ID Requirement Contributed to Democratic Losses in Wisconsin

WASHINGTON, DC – Priorities USA and Civis Analytics on Tuesday released the results of a study on the effects of voter suppression laws, which found a significant decrease in turnout during the 2016 election in states requiring voters to present a form of identification before casting a ballot. Whereas turnout increased in states with no change in voter ID laws between the 2012 and 2016 elections, turnout decreased in states where a strict voter ID law was instituted before the most recent election. This effect was particularly pronounced in African-American communities, where turnout decreased by as much as 5 percent.

“Americans’ fundamental right to vote is under attack by Republican governors and state legislatures around the country,” said Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA. “Under the false pretense of combatting voter fraud, Republicans are passing laws that make it more difficult and time-consuming for average citizens to participate in the democratic process. Priorities is committed to fighting back against these laws where they’re proposed and educating the public about their harmful effects.”

Priorities USA’s study found that in states with no change in their voter ID laws between the two most recent presidential elections, turnout increased 1.3 percent. However, in states that implemented “non-strict” voter ID laws, meaning voters without acceptable ID could only cast provisional ballots, turnout increased by a mere 0.7 percent. In states that implemented “strict” ID laws, requiring voters without ID to both cast provisional ballots and take additional action after Election Day to ensure their vote was counted, turnout dropped by 1.7 percent.

The study also produced a county-level turnout analysis showing that counties with both high concentrations of African-American voters and strict voter ID laws experienced a decrease in turnout (5.0 percent) beyond that of demographically similar counties with no change in ID laws (2.2 percent). A comparison of Wisconsin, which recently passed a strict voter ID law, and Minnesota, which has seen no change in voter ID laws since the 2012 election, revealed a significantly higher drop-off of African-American voters in Wisconsin than in Minnesota.

The turnout effects associated with voter ID laws have real and significant consequences in close elections, and there is evidence that Wisconsin’s voter ID law may have swung the state’s vote against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Priorities’ study estimates that if turnout in Wisconsin had increased at the same 1.3 percent rate seen in states with no change in ID laws instead of decreasing by 3.3 percent, over 200,000 more Wisconsin voters would have cast their ballot in 2016. A detailed analysis of these theoretical “lost voters” reveals that they would have skewed more African-American and more Democratic than Wisconsin’s actual 2016 electorate — and in a state that Hillary Clinton lost by 20,000 votes, those additional 200,000 votes could very well have changed the final outcome.

The study is being released on the heels of Priorities USA’s research project analyzing “swing” voters and “turnout” voters in the 2016 election in order to glean lessons that can be applied to strengthen Democrats in elections in 2018, 2020 and beyond. The initial analysis, conducted via polling and focus groups, has now continued with an examination of the impact of voter identification laws.

To read the memo, click here.