Texas Voter ID Law Held Down Turnout In Key 2014 Congressional Race

The law discouraged thousands of eligible voters in Texas’ 23rd Congressional District from going to the polls, according to a joint study by Rice University’s Baker Institute and the University of Houston’s Hobby Center for Public Policy.


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On the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, a new study today finds that Texas’ voter ID law may have kept some from voting. Researchers at Rice University and the University of Houston found the law may have discouraged as many as 9 percent of registered voters from casting a ballot in the state’s most-competitive congressional race last November.

The Latino-majority 23rd Congressional District covers much of Southwest Texas. Roughly 118,000 voters registered in the district cast a ballot in the November 2014 election, but more than 271,000 registered voters stayed home.

“And in that race, Republican Will Hurd narrowly defeated the Democratic incumbent Pete Gallego,” says Mark Jones, a fellow in political science at Rice University’s Baker Institute.

Researchers for the Baker Institute and the University of Houston’s Hobby Center for Public Policy surveyed a random sample of those who didn’t vote to find out why. While 13 percent of respondents cited the voter ID law as a reason they didn’t vote, less than 3 percent lacked an acceptable photo ID.

“So the biggest impact of the law wasn’t to prevent people who didn’t have an ID from voting,” Jones says, “it was to cause people who actually had one of the IDs to not turn out because they thought they didn’t have the right ID.”

Jones says such confusion could have been avoided with a more robust public education campaign.

Among registered voters who did not cast a ballot because they believed they lacked an acceptable photo ID, the study found that supporters of Pete Gallego outnumbered those of Will Hurd by more than 4-to-1.

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that the voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act. Governor Greg Abbott said the state will continue to fight in support of the law.



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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media's business reporter, covering the oil...

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