A bigger-than-expected turnout among black voters that helped push Doug Jones to a rare Democratic victory in red-state Alabama suggests the effect of voting restrictions might not be as powerful as critics claim, The New York Times reported.
Sometimes, motivation is what matters, Alabama native LaTosha Brown, a founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, told the Times.
"Historically and traditionally, there has been a strong voice of resistance to those that are undemocratic," she told the Times. "I don't think that this is new; I think that has always been the role that black voters, particularly in the Deep South, have played."
According to the Times, since 2010, 23 states, mostly under Republican control, have enacted laws requiring voters to show identification before casting ballots to curb any voter fraud.
The Times reported six states have reduced early voting days or hours, seven have stiffened requirements to register and three states have made it harder for people with felony convictions to regain the right to vote.
What remains unclear is what role voting restrictions, including voter ID, are playing on turnout in Alabama and elsewhere, the Times reported. Exit polls available in Alabama suggest the share of blacks who cast ballots — roughly 41 percent of the African-Americans voters — exceeded the 35 or so percent of whites who turned out, the Times reported.
"It depends on where, and it depends on who," Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who also oversaw voting-rights issues in the Obama administration Justice Department, told the Times.
"There are real, live instances where positions are taken to keep eligible people from showing up at the polls or to make it needlessly harder to vote. But it's not nationwide, and it's not all the time."
Some voting rights advocates say the relevant measure should be whether people were unable to vote, not whether particular policies determined the outcome of the election.
"Voter suppression might not be attributable in every instance to changing an election outcome, but it's significant to people who have barriers in front of them at the ballot box," Myrna Pérez, the deputy director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, told the Times.
"The country is going to be poorer if we only care about voter suppression when it affects the outcome."
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