The Suppression of African American Votes in North Carolina:
Can Fewer Early Voting Hours Decrease African American Turnout?
This paper discusses the impact of electoral rules on African American turnout, with an emphasis on turnout in North Carolina. Did the rules passed, prior to the 2016 General Election, have a noticeable impact on the African American voters in the state and whether they decided to vote? I believe that it did. To prove it, I am testing the theory that, for the average voter, deciding to go vote is a cost-benefit analysis. In previous works, this has been referred to as the calculus of voting. This theory states that voters weigh the cost and benefits before they decide to vote, and any time policies are implemented that increase the cost of voting, we should see a decrease in turnout. I’m testing this hypothesis on voting files obtained from the NC Board of Elections. The data compares the turnout of African Americans and Whites, by county, between the 2012 and 2016 General Elections. I expect to find that the implementation of new rules, allowing counties to decrease the number of early voting locations, hours, and days of operation, increased the cost of voting for African-Americans and, therefore, decrease their turnout. Until the implications of reducing voting hours and implementing other election regulations are fully known, political parties will continue to claim justification for reducing our citizens’ access to voting. While many people in academia would assert the impact as common knowledge, the debate continues and is more evenly split with supporters. Therefore, the importance of this research is establishing a direct link between implementation of election laws and decreased turnout so that that change can be demanded.