Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Jim Crow 2.0? Why States Consider and Adopt Restrictive Voter Access Policies

  • Keith G. Bentele (a1) and Erin E. O'Brien (a1)

Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in state legislation likely to reduce access for some voters, including photo identification and proof of citizenship requirements, registration restrictions, absentee ballot voting restrictions, and reductions in early voting. Political operatives often ascribe malicious motives when their opponents either endorse or oppose such legislation. In an effort to bring empirical clarity and epistemological standards to what has been a deeply-charged, partisan, and frequently anecdotal debate, we use multiple specialized regression approaches to examine factors associated with both the proposal and adoption of restrictive voter access legislation from 2006–2011. Our results indicate that proposal and passage are highly partisan, strategic, and racialized affairs. These findings are consistent with a scenario in which the targeted demobilization of minority voters and African Americans is a central driver of recent legislative developments. We discuss the implications of these results for current partisan and legal debates regarding voter restrictions and our understanding of the conditions incentivizing modern suppression efforts. Further, we situate these policies within developments in social welfare and criminal justice policy that collectively reduce electoral access among the socially marginalized.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

James M. Avery , and Mark Peffley . 2005. “Voter Registration Requirements, Voter Turnout, and Welfare Eligibility Policy.” State Politics and Policy Quarterly 5(1): 4767.

James Coleman Battista . 2011. “Formal and Perceived Leadership Power in U.S. States.” State Politics and Policy Quarterly 11(1): 102118.

James Coleman Battista , and Jesse T. Richman . 2011. “Party Pressure in the U.S. State Legislatures.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 36(3): 397422.

William Berry , Evan Ringquist , Richard Fording , and Russell Hanson . 1998. “Measuring Citizen and Government Ideology in the American States, 1960–93. American Journal of Politics 42: 327348.

Frederick Boehmke , and Richard Winter . 2004. “Disentangling Diffusion: The Effects of Social Learning and Economic Competition on State Policy Innovation and Expansion.” Political Research Quarterly 57(1): 3951.

Sarah M. Brooks 2007. “When Does Diffusion Matter? Explaining the Spread of Structural Pension Reforms across Nations.” Journal of Politics 69(3): 701–15.

John Fenton . 1979. “Turnout and the Two-Party Vote.” Journal of Politics 41(1): 229–34.

Michael C. Herron , and Daniel A. Smith . 2013. “Early Voting in Florida in the Aftermath of House Bill 1355.” State Politics & Policy Quarterly published online before print June 5, 2013, doi: 10.1177/1532440013487387.

Lawrence R. Jacobs , and Desmond King , eds. 2009. The Unsustainable American State. New York: Oxford University Press.

Shannon Jenkins . 2008. “Party Influence on Roll Call Voting: A View from the U.S. States.” State Politics and Policy Quarterly 8(3): 239–62.

Andrew Karch . 2007. Democratic Laboratories: Policy Diffusion among the American States. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Desmond S. King , and Rogers M. Smith . 2005. “Racial Orders in American Political Development.” American Political Science Review 99(1): 7592.

Desmond S. King , and Rogers M. Smith . 2011. Still a House Divided: Race and Politics in Obama's America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Steven Levitsky , and Lucan Way . 2010. Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Jeff Manza , and Christopher Uggen . 2004. “Punishment and Democracy: Disenfranchisement of Nonincarcerated Felons in the United States.” Perspectives on Politics 2(3): 491505.

Christopher Mooney . 2011. “Modeling Regional Effects on State Policy Diffusion.” Political Research Quarterly 54(1): 103–24.

Christopher Z. Mooney , and Mei-Hsien Lee . 1995. “Legislating Morality in the American States: The Case of Pre-Roe Abortion Regulation Reform.” American Journal of Political Science 39: 599627.

Yair Mundlak . 1978. “On the Pooling of Times Series and Cross Section Data.” Econometrica 46(1): 6985.

Andreas Schedler . 2002. “The Nested Game of Democratization by Elections.” International Political Science Review 23(1): 103–22.

Joe Soss . 2000. Unwanted Claims: The Politics of Participation in the US Welfare System. Ann Arbor,: University of Michigan Press.

Joe Soss , Sanford Schram , Thomas Vartanian , and Erin O'Brien . 2001. “Setting the Terms of Relief: Explaining State Policy Choices in the Devolution Revolution.” American Journal of Political Science 45(2): 378–95.

Joe Soss , Richard Fording , and Sanford Schram . 2011. Disciplining the Poor: Neoliberalism and the Persistent Power of Race. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Christopher Stream . 1999. “Health Reform in the States: A Model of State Small Group Health Insurance Market Reforms.” Political Research Quarterly 52(3): 499526.

Richard M. Valelly 2004. The Two Reconstructions: The Struggle for Black Enfranchisement. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Tova A. Wang 2012. The Politics of Voter Suppression: Defending and Expanding Americans' Right to Vote. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Velsa M. Weaver 2007. “Frontlash: Race and the Development of Punitive Crime Policy.” Studies in American Political Development 21: 230–65.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Perspectives on Politics
  • ISSN: 1537-5927
  • EISSN: 1541-0986
  • URL: /core/journals/perspectives-on-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 84
Total number of PDF views: 452 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 2229 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.