Effects of the U.S. Electoral Laws on Voters’ Turnout



Effects of the U.S. Electoral Laws on Voters’ Turnout. Elections form the foundation of democracy around the globe. Most countries have planned elections to elect their leaders, including the United States. Notably, the United States schedules more elections annually compared to other countries in the world. More specifically, elections and campaigns are usually dictated by various electoral state laws and legislations. The electoral laws affect the American voters in various ways, including how they turn out to participate in the electoral process. This research, therefore, ventilates the impact of electoral laws on the voters’ turnout.

In the past years, researchers and political observers have increased their attention to the effect of the administrative component of electoral laws on how voters behave. The already existing studies have extensively focused on how legal changes such as voters’ identification, the voting rights Act, and national voters registration affect the voters’ turnout. Approximately about 3.5 million voters experienced other voting difficulties and stopped them from voting. For instance, the approximated number of voters have to hang on lengthier than one hour to participate and exercise their democratic rights. Hypothetically, if a long line is similarly possible in every county, the problem can be described as an accidental annoyance. However, there is nobody with bigger allegations.

Consequently, Studies show that those ethnic demographics are one of the sturdiest prognosticators of determining how long an electorate has to wait in line with nonwhite voters is almost seven times more likely to wait than an hour than white voters. It is even more concerning when these racial differences are mainly caused by domestic voting administrators providing more poll workers and voting machines to more heavily white boundaries at the outlay of counties serving marginalized voters.

Voting Right Act

The Voting Rights Act was passed into law signed into law to enhance democracy in the United States. The law’s main purpose was to effectively aid in overcoming some of the legal barriers within the constitution that was discriminative in the elections. These legal barriers include federal and State laws that barred the minority groups, specifically African Americans, from voting. Additionally, the law aimed to reinforce African Americans’ rights to exercise their democratic right of voting as a failsafe under the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Historically, The United States considers the voting right to be one of the far-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation.

Over the years since the Voting Rights Act, there has been an increased voters’ turnout in the United States elections. Various studies confirm a considerate increase in voters’ turnout since the passing of section five. Notably, academic studies show that from 1965 to 1980, since section 8 was passed, there has been an increase in voters’ turnout by 6.5 to 11.5 percentage points per election (Aneja & Avenancio-Leon, 2019). Out of the total turnout, there is a two percent jurisdiction turnout increase in the black population. Therefore, electoral law has led to an increase in the voters’ turnout in the United States election.

Electoral laws such as the Voting Right Act has impacted the voters’ turnout by protecting and enabling the minority to participate in the electoral process. The passing of section 5 of the voters’ Act positively impacts the voters’ turnout in general elections. The higher percentage turnout was contributed completely by, the higher nonwhite turnout. Especially, the coverage had no noticeable impact on white turnout. After the supreme court struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act on the discrimination jurisdiction, the preclearance oversight increased the long-run voters’ turnout by about 4-8 percent (Ang, 2019). The percentage increase was based on lasting gains in minority participation. The preclearance oversight that involved the federal mandate by the supreme court has a positive impact on the voters’ turnout.

Voters’ Identification Law

Voters’ identification verification law currently exists in the majority States, 34, of the United States. The main intention of the law is to improve and to ensure electoral integrity. Even though critics find the law unnecessary, several researchers, after evaluation, the law serves its primary role in electoral protection, although voters’ identification law was primarily meant to increase electoral integrity and reduce the risk of voter fraud and misrepresentation. Critics or opponents of the law argue that the law is meant to disenfranchise a certain section of the community. More specifically, critics claim that it was meant to limit Americans with low-income opportunities to vote during the election since most cannot afford their identification cards (Highton, 2017). Additionally, another disenfranchised American is – according to the critic and the opponents of the Voter Identification law, are the minority, which includes the African Americans.

However, most research and studies indicate that even though the opponent and the proponents of the law have their valid stand on the law, the Voter Identification law has an insignificant effect on the voters; turnout generally. In their analysis, a study that considered Michigan and Florida found out that the impact of voter identification law has an inconsequential impact on voters’ turnout. Generally, most states cast very few votes without identification documents, including states without forced stringent voter identification requirements. Overall, an estimated rate of individuals voting without their identification document is approximately 0.016 to 0.31 range (Hoekstra, & Koppa, 2019. P, 8). The statistical analysis data shows that the voter identification law has a negligible impact on Americans’ turnout for the elections.

Further, it is difficult to determine and identify whether the law – voter identification law – has a negative or positive effect on the voters; turnout. Inasmuch as there is a slightly negative impact of the law on the voters’ turnout due to restrictions, politically, the law might also have a countermobilization strategy as a campaign tool. The strategy could work for Americans who feel disadvantaged by the enactment of the law. The countermobilization might result from anger among the democrats and the minority (Valentino & Neuner, 2017). The anger may be due to the belief that the law is advantageous to the republicans, making it a strong incentive for the democrats to mobilize the democrats without identification documents to obtain theirs. Resultantly, the countermobilization might lead to a high voters turnout as a result of the law. Therefore, the law does not directly affect the voters; turnout in the United States of America.

Besides countermobilization by political parties, the positive impact of voter identification on voters’ turnout might result from notifying voters about identification requirements. The law by itself alone has an insignificant effect on the voters’ turnout in the United States. However, it has a considerable positive impact when influenced by factors like giving Americans a reminder on the identification requirement. Notifying the electorates about the identification requirement increased voters’ turnout by about 1.5 percent (Citrin, Green, Levy, 2014). The notification to help and warn voters with or about the voter identification law led to a high turnout.


People Over Long Line (POLL) Act

            All Americans, irrespective of their political affiliation, race, gender, and ethnicity, have a fundamental right to vote. The electoral rules for voting and the electoral process in every State should purposefully protect and promote voters’ participation in the American elections. The People Over Long Line (POLL) Act rule seeks to remedy the disenfranchisement of voter waiting time at the polling stations. Approximately 3.5 million people waited longer than one hour to cast their vote in the 2012 general elections. Additionally, more research has shown that racial demographics are a key determinant of how long an American can wait in the voting line.  The nonwhite voters are approximated to be seven-time to be likely to wait longer. Even though this problem can be attributed to the local election official, voting machines are more white-friendly than nonwhites. The long waiting in the voting lines has a significant effect on how voters vote in the elections.

The law – People Over Long Line (POLL) Act has significantly increased the voters’ turnout since its enactment. The law has provided relief to voters since it ensures less waiting time in the voting line. Additionally, it makes voters aware that their votes would be pivotal in the outcome of the elections. Consequently, the law seeks to provide a psychological and sociological solution to the voting long waiting line. Socially, political involvement is a source of entertainment, with social profits (Hersh, 2020). The law has provided a sense to this social problem by solving the long waiting line during the voting process.

Furthermore, it aids in solving the problem that a bad customer service experience at the polls might make them less likely to turn out in the future (Pettigrew, 2021). The law resolves the negative experience by the government official at the polling station. Therefore, the People Over Long Line (POLL) Act has significantly increased the voters’ turnout in the United States elections.

Also, it has restored voters’ confidence in the United States electoral system to those who usually waited longer in the voting line during elections. The law has changed the voters’ behavior of not waiting for a particular time when the lines are shorter. Voters have become confident of voting at any time to the day to cast their vote to their preferred candidates. The general effect of the People Over Long Line (POLL) Act is that it has enhanced and eased the voting stress of waiting for a longer time in the voting line to cast their votes. As a result, the law has helped to encourage more Americans to come out and vote in the general elections.

National Voter Registration Act

            The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) was signed into law to aid in making voters registration easier and uniform in all the States in the United States. The Act has a motor-voter registration bill signed into law to have numerous citizen voters and participate in the democratic process. The law aimed at establishing the voter registration procedure for the federal election to ensure that eligible Americans would apply to register to be a voter and vote. Notably, it ensured that Americans could simultaneously register as voters while applying for their drivers’ licenses. They could also register as voters via emails and register at selected state and local offices offering public services.

Both proponents and opponents have different perspectives of the Act by proponents having a view easy voter registration. In addition, they argue that besides easing the registration, the Act makes voter registration economical, with measures to effectively reduce voter fraud hence less violation of the federal offenses. Therefore, it would lead to an increase in voter turnout. On the other hand, opponents argue that the law has insignificant evidence that the registration law leads to a higher voter turnout. Consequently, they argue that the law encourages electoral to make it easy for people to register and vote. Despite their concerns, the Act was signed into law and implemented by most states in the United States of America.

Despite the fact that the law would increase the number of voters registered in the States that implemented the law, most studies and researchers found that various factors contribute to a high voters’ turnout, other than the voters’ registration procedure. The studies continue to state that voters’ registration reforms have been taking place over the year, with citizens having been more educated than in the past, but still voters’ turnout declined. As a result, the studies found that even if there is an increase in voters’ turnout, the voter registration law has a little or insignificant impact (Crocker, 2013). For instance, a case study of voters’ turnout in North Dakota and South Dakota in 1992. The result is that there was 67.28 and 66.98 percent for North Dakota and South Dakota, respectively (Crocker, 2013). The result was so because North Dakota had not implemented the voter registration law requirement, whereas South Dakota had fully implemented one of the stricter registration systems. Therefore, the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) law only increased the number of registered voters in the United States of America but significantly affected the voters’ turnout.

In support, other studies argue that the National Voter Registration law reduced the voters’ turnout in the previous elections since it was passed into law. For instance, the 1972 presidential election by approximately nine percentage points (Rosenstone & Wolfinger, 2014). The impact of the law was signed on areas with less educated people of both races. More so, another reason that led to low turnout is that the deadline made most of the Americans not register. Moreover, another impediment to voters’ turnout based on the National Voter Registration law is the limited registration office working hours. Therefore, the law generally has an insignificant impact on the voters’ turnout.

Felony Disenfranchisement Law

The felony disenfranchisement law excludes millions of Americans from participation in the country’s democratic process since they are felony convicts. These Americans have reaped their voting rights based on their criminal past – convicted criminals are denied their right to participate in the American elections. In the United States, approximately 5.17 million people are disenfranchised, including over one million who have completed their sentences (Uggen, Larson, Shannon & Pulido-Nava, 2020). Further, various studies claim that this law is discriminative in terms of racial disenfranchisement. Studies show that about thirteen percent – almost 1.4 million of the disenfranchised convicts are African Americans (Fellner, 1998). Therefore, the law locked out a significant portion of the United States’ population from participating in their country’s democratic process.

Generally, there is a significant reduction in the voters’ turnout among the ex-criminal offenders. Researchers argue that criminal convictions reduce voters’ turnout due to being depressed by social and human capital. Additionally, criminal convictions have reduced voters’ registration (McCahon, 2015). Therefore, felony disenfranchisement law has a negative effect on the voters’ turnout during the United States Elections. Moreover, ex-offenders turnout during is generally low. The lowness is also experienced among the general American population. Whenever a felony convict, whether serving or those who have completed their sentence and are free into the community or society, is a block from voting, it results in a reduced voter turnout.

According to the felony convicts, the disenfranchised are disproportionately male and African Americans. For one, statistically, a large portion of the African Americans have been blocked from participating in the elections, thereby reducing the number of voters’ turnout. Secondly, based on the number of felony convicts denied their voting, approximately 5.17 million Americans automatically reduce the number of voters who participated in the general or State elections. As such, the felony disenfranchisement law has a negative impact on the voters’ turnout in the United States’ democratic process – elections.

In conclusion, electoral laws have an impact on the United States’ democratic processes– elections. Various studies have expressed their findings that these electoral laws impact the voters’ turnout during the elections. Based on the above analysis, most studies evidently show that most of the analyzed laws negatively impact the voters’ turnout. It is found that the analyzed laws are impediments to the Americans to exercise their democratic right in the electoral process fully. Based on previous research, electoral laws are restrictions put in place to confine Americans from voting. The research findings are made despite the fact that the proponents of these laws purposefully intended to increase voters’ turnout and reduce electoral fraud. Moreover, the electoral laws that positively impacted the voters’ turnout either had little evidence or the increase was influenced by other factors like the electoral system and campaigns. Therefore, the electoral laws are restrictions that make voters shy away from voting.












Aneja, A., & Avenancio-Leon, C. F. (2019). The effect of political power on labor market inequality: Evidence from the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Unpublished working paper.

Crocker, R. (2013). The National Voter Registration Act of 1993: History, Implementation, and Effects. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.

Fellner, J. (1998). Losing the vote: The impact of felony disenfranchisement laws in the United States. Sentencing Project.

Ang, D. (2019). Do 40-year-old facts still matter? Long-run effects of federal oversight under the Voting Rights Act. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 11(3), 1-53.

Highton, B. (2017). Voter identification laws and turnout in the United States. Annual Review of Political Science, 20, 149-167.

Hoekstra, M., & Koppa, V. (2019). Strict Voter Identification Laws, Turnout, and Election Outcomes (No. w26206). National Bureau of Economic Research.

Valentino, N. A., & Neuner, F. G. (2017). Why the sky didn’t fall: mobilizing anger in reaction to voter I.D. laws. Political Psychology, 38(2), 331-350.

Citrin, J., Green, D. P., & Levy, M. (2014). The effects of voter I.D. notification on voter turnout: Results from a large-scale field experiment. Election Law Journal, 13(2), 228-242.

Hersh, E. (2020). Politics is for power: Moving beyond political hobbyism, taking action, and making real change. Simon and Schuster.

Pettigrew, S. (2021). The downstream consequences of long waits: How lines at the precinct depress future turnout. Electoral Studies, 71, 102188.

Rosenstone, S. J., & Wolfinger, R. E. (2014). The effect of registration laws on voter turnout. American Political Science Review, 72(1), 22-45.

Uggen, C., Larson, R., Shannon, S., & Pulido-Nava, A. (2020). Locked Out 2020: Estimates of People Denied Voting Rights due to a Felony Conviction. The Sentencing Project, Washington, DC https://www. Sentencing Project. org/publications/locked-out-2020-estimates-of-people-denied-voting-rights-due-to-a-felony-conviction.

McCahon, D. S. (2015). A Legacy of Exclusion: How Felon Disenfranchisement Affects Patterns of Civic Engagement in Ex-Felony Offenders. University of California, Riverside.


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