Nonwhites have more trouble exercising their right to vote at a higher rate than whites according to a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute. The research ties into the broader national conversation over discriminatory voter ID laws and Republican efforts to disenfranchise minority voters.
Fewer Americans overall reported issues related to casting their ballots, however, black and Hispanic voters were more likely to experience obstacles when they head to the polls, the survey found.
“Only five percent of Americans report that they or someone in their household was told that they lacked the correct identification the last time they tried to vote,” PRRI noted.
Black and Hispanic voters (9 percent) were three times more likely to either personally lack or have family that lacks proper voter identification. Three percent of white voters indicated this.
Fifteen percent of black voters and 14 percent of Hispanic voters reported having difficulty locating their polling places, compared to only five percent of white Americans who said themselves or a family member struggled to find where they are supposed to vote. Eight percent of the general public agreed.
There was also an ethnic disparity among people who were able to meet voter registration deadlines.
“Six percent of Americans report that they or someone in their household missed the registration deadline when they tried to vote most recently,” the survey found. “More than one in ten black (11%) and Hispanic (11%) Americans report having this experience, compared to only three percent of white Americans.”
A relatively low number of all Americans reported getting harassed or having a family member who has been accosted while casting a ballot, however, whites were twice as likely to not experience voter intimidation.
Five percent of Americans, which includes four percent of whites, said they have been pestered while trying to vote. Those numbers are slightly higher among black and Hispanic voters, with 10 and 11 percent reporting they have experienced harassment at the polls, respectively.
Ten percent of blacks and 11 percent of Hispanics said they or a family member did not appear on the voter rolls despite being registered to vote, PRRI found, compared to only five percent of white voters who recalled having the same experience.
The most commonly shared problem among those surveyed was being able to take time off from work to go vote. More than one in ten Americans (11 percent) said they were unable to vote due to work obligations. Eight percent of white voters said work got in the way of voting, while 16 percent of black and Hispanic voters indicated work prevented them from voting.
Republicans in state legislatures across the country have taken drastic measures in recent years to prevent nonwhites from exercising their right to vote.
As of 2018, 34 states have laws on the books requiring voters to present some form of photo ID, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. These laws, the ACLU says, disproportionately affect minority and elderly voters, who are more likely to support Democrats.
These voters are disproportionately low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Such voters more frequently have difficulty obtaining ID, because they cannot afford or cannot obtain the underlying documents that are a prerequisite to obtaining government-issued photo ID card.
Partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts also prevents an equitable distribution of voters. Republicans across the country have redrawn districts in ways that allow them to a) essentially choose their own voters and b) segregate voting blocs by race and political party affiliation.
With November’s midterm elections right around the corner, gerrymandered districts threaten to give Republicans an unfair advantage, and possibly the opportunity to retain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, even though Democrats are expected to receive more votes.
An analysis by Mother Jones in March showed that “Democrats would need to win the popular vote by 11 points—an enormous margin in American politics today,” citing a Brennan Center report that found Democrats gaining only 13 of the 24 seats necessary to retake the House even if they have a six-point advantage.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.