Harvard University Study Says Election Officials are Biased Against Latinos

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A new Harvard University study suggests that it may be more difficult for Latinos to gather election information from voting officials. Political science graduate students Julie Faller, Noah Nathan and Ariel White discovered that local election officials were less likely to reply to emails signed with Spanish names. 

For the study titled, What Do I Need To Vote? Bias in Information Provision by Local Election Officials, the group emailed local election officials with questions about voting information and signed the messages with fictitious names. A quarter of the emails the group sent out were signed with “Latino-sounding names” and the other quarter were signed with “white-sounding names." The rest of the messages were generic inquiries in order to determine whether the question was a variable in the type of responses received.

After analyzing more than 5,300 replies, the researchers found that Latinos were less likely to get a response at all, or even an accurate one. “While our design does not allow us to identify specific mechanisms responsible for this bias, we show that emailers with Latinos names were roughly five percentage points less likely to receive a reply to a question about voter ID requirements than non-Latino whites,” explained the report.

Laws about voter ID requirements vary from state to state and play a huge role on who actually makes it to the polls. Keesha Gaskins, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, said to The Washington Post, “Understanding that voter ID laws affect the ability for voters to obtain a ballot, where there are institutional barriers that are exacerbated by race, it provides additional reasons why these laws are bad policy.”

Project Vote, a program that advocates for voting rights, believes that ID laws disproportionately affect the elderly, students, people of color, and low-income communities. They provide accurate resources and information about hitting the polls for all voters nationwide.

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