Political Science


Maureen Moakley

Advisor Department

Political Science




Voter Identification Laws; Race; Political Parties; Democracy


Voting is a right granted to all registered U.S. citizens who are over the age of 18. Voter eligibility is something that has progressed over the history of the republic. Initially, voting was a right reserved only for white male land owners. Eventually, with the passage of the 15th, 19th, and 26th amendments, suffrage was extended to black males, females, and 18 year olds. Prior to the passage of these amendments, techniques of direct disenfranchisement were employed to deter non-white male landowners from voting, especially African Americans. Tactics such as literacy tests and poll taxes were two tactics used by state government officials toprevent specific groups of the electorate from voting because it was more often than not that minorities would fall into the group of the electorate that was uneducated and poor, and therefore could not pass the literacy tests or afford the poll taxes. Despite the progress voting rights have undergone, there is legislation that continues to exist that actively works to suppress the ability to vote among various constituencies –sometimes considered a ploy by states who implement voter ID laws. When Rhode Island implemented voter ID laws in 2012, there was much speculation that they were implemented to decrease minority voting.In the following pages I will be analyzing the impact voter ID requirements have across the country, looking at the effect (if any) these laws have had on minority voter turnout across the country, paying particular attention to Rhode Island. Myresearch question is: are the voter IDlaws in RI an outlier inthe sense that they don't have a discernible impact on voter turnout during elections? In an effort to answer this question, I have created four aims and objectives:

1. Evaluate current voter ID laws in place in RI and discuss how/why these laws were passed

2. Determine whether or not RI fits into this pattern of deterrence or does it present a different model?

3. Consider if voter ID laws in other states deter certain constituencies from voting?

4. Determine whether any laws in RI deter constituencies from voting?

To do this I will study national and state board of election data to analyze voter turnout in RI and other states before and after voter ID laws were implemented. I will also be completing a literature review on topics relevant to voter ID.