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How can statistical analysis evaluate the impact of voter ID laws?

Providing expert testimony on voter ID laws

America has passed laws for decades that restrict the ability of eligible voters to vote. In many cases, these laws have disproportionally affected racial and ethnic minorities.

How can Westat's data collection and statistical capabilities be used to determine when laws are discriminatory ?

Westat’s David Marker, Ph.D., Associate Director and Senior Statistician, testified as an expert witness in 3 court cases before both federal and state courts. In each case, the state passed a law that required possession of one of a very limited set of photo identifications.

Texas. To show that it did not discriminate against minority groups, Texas conducted a very poor quality telephone survey. Dr. Marker testified as an expert witness on behalf of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund. His testimony before the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals demonstrated the low quality of the survey and that it did not approach the standards expected for data used by the federal government. Quoting this testimony, the Court threw out the survey and stated that, as a result, the State of Texas had not demonstrated the law did not discriminate.

Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs conducted a survey demonstrating disparate impact on minorities and by geography. The state judge had thrown out the survey. Testifying at a re-hearing, Dr. Marker demonstrated that the survey was of reasonable quality and could be relied upon for analysis. The survey was admitted as evidence, and the judge ruled the law invalid.

Alabama. To demonstrate how the law impacted Black and Hispanic registered voters, Westat was asked to conduct a survey of registered voters whose names and addresses did not match driver’s licenses (and non-voter IDs) maintained by the state. The survey demonstrated that Black registered voters were less likely to have any of the acceptable forms of ID. This finding was accepted by the U.S. District Court; but the Court ruled that this was not sufficient grounds for overturning the law.

In all 3 cases the adverse impact of these laws was demonstrated based on statistical principles. This contributed to the overturning of voter ID laws in 2 of the 3 states.

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