Race, Party, and the Consequences of Restricting Early Voting in Florida in the 2012 General Election
Political Research Quarterly
Michael C. Herron and Daniel A. Smith
In mid-2011, the Florida legislature reduced the state’s early voting period from fourteen days to eight and eliminated the final Sunday of early voting. We compare observed voting patterns in 2012 with those in the 2008 General Election and find that racial/ethnic minorities, registered Democrats, and those without party affiliation had significant early voting participation drops and that voters who cast ballots on the final Sunday in 2008 were disproportionately unlikely to cast a valid ballot in 2012. Florida’s decision to truncate early voting may have diminished participation rates of those already least likely to vote.
Shortly after the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), the state of North Carolina enacted an omnibus piece of election-reform legislation known as the Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA). Prior to Shelby portions of North Carolina were covered jurisdictions per the VRA’s Sections 4 and 5—meaning that they had to seek federal preclearance for changes to their election procedures—and this motivates our assessment of whether VIVA’s many alterations to North Carolina’s election procedures are race-neutral. We show that black early voters in North Carolina have in presidential elections cast their ballots disproportionately in the first week of early voting, an early voting week that VIVA has eliminated; that blacks in the state disproportionately have registered to vote during early voting and in the immediate run-up to Election Day, something that VIVA prohibits; that North Carolina registered voters who lack two VIVA-acceptable forms of voter identification, drivers licenses and nonoperator identification cards, are disproportionately black; that VIVA’s identification dispensation for voters at least 70 years is a disproportionate benefit to whites; and, that preregistered 16 and 17-year old voters in North Carolina, a category of registrants that VIVA prohibits, are disproportionately black. These results illustrate how VIVA will have a disparate effect on black voters in North Carolina.