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(51,461 posts)
Thu Aug 18, 2022, 02:04 PM Aug 2022

Patterns in the Introduction and Passage of Restrictive Voting Bills are Best Explained by Race

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The Leadership Conference
A new @BrennanCenter study finds that repres­ent­at­ives from the whitest districts in the most racially diverse states were the most likely to spon­sor anti-voter legislation in 2021.
Voters waiting in long lines
Patterns in the Introduction and Passage of Restrictive Voting Bills are Best Explained by Race
White racial resentment — and not just party and competitiveness alone — goes a long way toward explaining where restrictive voting laws were introduced and passed in 2021.
10:24 AM · Aug 18, 2022


Over the past 18 months, there has been an unpre­ced­en­ted wave of anti-voter legis­la­tion intro­duced and passed across the coun­try. In 2021, at least one bill with a provi­sion restrict­ing access to voting was intro­duced in the legis­lature of every state except Vermont. By early May of this year, nearly 400 restrict­ive bills had been intro­duced in legis­latures nation­wide.

Legis­lat­ors and research­ers have given differ­ent explan­a­tions for this wave. The mostly Repub­lican lawmakers support­ing these bills often argue that the new provi­sions are neces­sary to protect elec­tion integ­rity, despite the absence of wide­spread fraud in Amer­ican elec­tions. Comment­at­ors argue that Repub­lican legis­lat­ors are push­ing to change elec­tion laws to guar­an­tee polit­ical advant­ages for their party. Some past research supports this argu­ment, demon­strat­ing that certain restrict­ive voting policies are most likely to be adop­ted in elect­or­ally compet­it­ive states controlled by Repub­lic­ans. Other schol­ar­ship shows that states pass restrict­ive voting laws when Amer­ic­ans of color have strong and grow­ing polit­ical power.

The Bren­nan Center has developed a unique data set for test­ing these explan­a­tions. Specific­ally, we tracked every restrict­ive voting provi­sion intro­duced in every state legis­lature in 2021 (as we do every year) and used Legis­can data to identify the spon­sors of these bills. We then exam­ine which district-level char­ac­ter­ist­ics are most correl­ated with whether a lawmaker sponsored a restrict­ive voting bill.

We tested several factors, includ­ing the partisan and racial makeup of legis­lat­ive districts and states as well as the racial opin­ions of constitu­ents. Our research shows that racial factors were power­ful predict­ors of spon­sor­ship. This is consist­ent with the theory that “racial back­lash” — a theory describ­ing how white Amer­ic­ans respond to a perceived erosion of power and status by under­min­ing the polit­ical oppor­tun­it­ies of minor­it­ies — is driv­ing this surge of restrict­ive legis­la­tion. To be sure, the data also confirm that partis­an­ship is a power­ful predictor of spon­sor­ship. But even after account­ing for racially polar­ized voting in the United States, we show that racial demo­graph­ics are a power­ful factor inde­pend­ent of party in determ­in­ing where restrict­ive voting laws are intro­duced and passed.


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