Voter ID regulations responsible for low Houston turnout
Confusion regarding voter ID regulations in Texas contributed to low voter turnout in Harris County and Congressional District 23 — the country’s third most populated county and home to the City of Houston — according to a study conducted by UH’s Hobby School of Public Affairs.
The survey, released on Monday, found that 37 percent of registered voters in Harris County and 45 percent in the surrounding congressional district did not vote in the 2016 general election.
Of the registered non-voters, 14 percent of respondents cited the voter ID requirement as a deterrent.
“Almost all registered voters who did not turn out to vote in 2016 possessed a valid photo ID, and virtually no one was prevented from voting because they didn’t have one of the state-approved forms of photo ID needed to cast a vote in person,” said Mark P. Jones, co-principal investigator on the study and a research associate at the Hobby School, in a news release. “However, these registered voters were poorly informed about the photo ID regulations in force.”
Texas law mandates that voters provide at least one of the seven state-approved photo IDs, a list including handgun licenses, personal identification cards, driver’s licenses, U.S. passports and military identification cards. According to the study, 97 percent of registered voters in Harris County who didn’t make it to the polls on Nov. 8 possessed a valid state ID.
A person without one of the approved cards or licenses can file a declaration at the polls and vote if they bring another form of ID, such as an original paycheck, a bank statement or birth certificate.
According to the study, only one in five non-voters were aware of this option.
The study aimed to examine the affects of the voter ID regulation on the outcomes of “purple” jurisdictions — which don’t typically lean toward either party — during the 2016 election, according to the report.
Nearly 48 percent of non-voters in Harris County — and 48.8 percent in Congressional District 23 — self-identified as Democrats, according to the study. Individuals identifying as Republicans made up 36.9 and 36.2 percent of non-voters, respectively.
Latino and Hispanic non-voters made up nearly 33 percent of Harris County’s non-voting population and 72.2 percent of the non-voting population in Congressional District 23. The report states that Latino and Hispanic voters were more likely to believe the photo ID regulations were more strict than they actually were, leading to lower turnout.
By comparison, white individuals made up 31 percent of non-voters in Harris County and 19.1 percent of Congressional District 23, according to the study.
U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos ruled that the voter identification law discriminates against Latinos and other minorities on April 10, the same day as the Hobby School report’s release, according to coverage by the Dallas Morning News.
“Our findings indicate that the state’s voter education efforts failed to reach a number of registered voters in 2016, and some of those votes might have affected down-ballot races,” said Renee Cross, associate director of the Hobby School and co-principal investigator of the study. “In order to overcome to confusion for 2018, a well-designed, funded and implemented public education effort is sorely needed.”