Voter Identification Laws: the Effects on Turnout Essay

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Voter Identification Laws: The Effects on Turnout “Despite much attention in popular literature, the impact of voter identification requirements on participation in the United States has, to-date, received little academic attention,” (Alvarez 2008, 3). Many states are currently working on reforms to voter identification laws. Trends of disenfranchisement can be traced all the way back to the civil rights movement of the 1960s until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is particularly important, as it requires jurisdictions with histories of discrimination to acquire preclearance from the Department of Justice. However, the recent Supreme Court decision in Shelby County vs. Holder has deemed Section 5 unconstitutional. Through research, it is seen that citizens endure the costs of voting to reap the benefits. However, it can be argued that voter identification laws have the potential to suppress turnout. In contrast, it can also be argued that there are ways around the laws, and the laws have little to no overall effect on turnout. In order to understand the recent trends in voter identification laws, we must first look back at the civil rights movement in the South. This movement was determined to secure equal rights for African Americans, including the right to vote. In 1965, at the height of the civil rights movement, black civil rights marchers started a 50-mile walk to Montgomery, Alabama to demand equal rights in voting, when white police in Selma used violence to disperse them. “What happened that day in Selma shocked the nation, and led President Johnson to call for immediate passage of a strong federal voting rights law,” (U.S. Department of Justice 2013). This led Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which “protects every American against racial discrimination in voting. This law also

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