I read this BBC article, but it's not totally clear for me why the recent voting rights laws passed in more than a dozen Republican-controlled state legislatures affect the Democratic base, but not their own constituents.

Are Republicans better at standing in lines than Democrats?

Are they more foolhardy with respect to Covid?

They are, but there would be plenty of time to vote early or even cast mail-in/absentee ballots for Covid-conscious Democrats anyway (several weeks ahead of the voting day seems to be pretty enough still).

How do the Republicans' laws make it harder for Democratic voters to vote (city population, especially people of color, young people)?

I understand gerrymandering, but it looks like they are trying something else this time (even innocuous, one might say)

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    Comments deleted. Please don't use comments to debate the question matter. If you would like to answer, please post a real answer. If you would like to discuss, please use the chat function. Please try to limit these comments to suggesting improvements to the question.
    – JJJ
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 16:25
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    Related question: "Do poor people, people of color, and elderly have difficulty in obtaining ID?"
    – Philipp
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 15:01
  • I think that you're putting the horse before the cart. your first question should be do they make it harder for group x to vote?
    – tuskiomi
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 19:46

6 Answers 6


There's a bevy of tools being used but they boil down to a few basic categories:

  1. Close polling stations in key neighborhoods, forcing longer trips and longer lines at polling stations where voters are predominately People of Color (POC) & low socio-economic-standing (SES). This raises the marginal cost of voting (higher cost of transport) as well as the opportunity cost (hours lost from paying work). This is a powerful disincentive for these people to vote.

A second version of this is the "make it illegal to give a bottle of water to people standing in line to vote" which also raises the misery induced by attempting to vote.

  1. Voter ID requirements place particularly painful economic burdens on low SES, disabled, and elderly voters. Getting a photo ID requires hours out of a day (lost work/wages), usually a fee you have to pay, and become one more damned thing someone has to keep track of when their plate is already full.

  2. Making voter support networks, and other election supports illegal, directly attacks the organic social supports that arise to help these populations overcome the already substantial obstacles to voting. Ballot collection is particularly useful to people who are mobility-impaired as it saves them having to physically navigate a polling station. Threatening election officials with felony charges has a chilling effect on them calling out abuses by raising the potential risks they face just from doing their jobs. Texas made it a felony to send a voter a ballot to which they are legally entitled, unless they first ask for it. This prevents people who don't know their rights as voters from being helped around that obstacle.

  3. And of course, outright disenfranchising populations that are already disproportionately POC & Low SES, such as ex-convicts who have finished their sentences is a nice, direct route to attack likely-Democratic voters.

A more extensive list can be found here.

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    Most of the points in this answer do not discuss how the measures impact Democratic and Republican voters differently, and the unstated implications are not obvious. For example, in #2, is the reader meant to deduce that elderly voters are more likely to vote Democrat?
    – A. Rex
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 1:03
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    This answer would be improved by pointing out that the groups impacted thus are more likely to vote Democrat. (Which I believe they do, but it needs to be included in the answer).
    – SQB
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 8:43
  • @A.Rex The Democratic party is more likely to support social services of all kinds, so people who require those social services are more likely to vote Democrat. By making it harder for those same people to vote you effectively erode the Democrats voter base. The specifics of which other population those same people belong to (elderly, POC, disabled, poor) is largely self fulfilling and doesn't need to be specifically targeted.
    – Turksarama
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 2:09
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    @Turksarama Elderly don't for disproportionately for Democrats. Indeed, quite the opposite. Democratic voters are, on average, much younger than Republican ones.
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 16:17
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    "Getting a photo ID requires hours out of a day (lost work/wages), usually a fee you have to pay, and become one more damned thing someone has to keep track of when their plate is already full." Photo ID is already required for so many other things that this argument really doesn't hold a lot of water, except maybe for the elderly who are more likely to vote Republican anyway. Also, lots of states with voter ID laws have free photo IDs that are legal for voting.
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 16:35

One consideration not mentioned so far is the disparate areas in which Republican voters and Democratic voters tend to live, the so-called "Rural-Urban Divide".

People living in more rural areas have a stronger tendency to vote Republican than people living in more urban areas (source). So in a sense, yes, Republicans are better at standing in lines for the pure simple fact that their voting lines tend to be shorter since there are fewer people voting from a precinct in a rural area (source). Placing odious requirements on voters when their line is short will have a marginal effect, but placing the same requirements on lines that are already longer will have a larger effect, some say leading to a net gain in votes for Republican candidates in some state-wide and federal races during any given election.

Couple this with the fact that in many cases it is not only important how many votes a candidate gets but where their voters are, the effect can lead to an outsized advantage when looking at a per-capita rate for one of the political parties. There is one recent example where a President was elected by the Electoral College even though they received fewer overall votes when George W. Bush beat Al Gore in 2000. Here is a YouTube video showing how an unlikely scenario could occur whereby 22% of the voters in a U.S. presidential election could be enough to win the Electoral College.

Whether that is an actual concern is a value judgement that even the framers of the U.S. Constitution grappled with, and led to the different apportionments of lawmakers between the different houses of Congress for the states where one is based off of population and the other is not.

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    You're not wrong, but I find it interesting that you jump to Bush vs Gore for the popular / electoral vote discrepancy rather than Clinton vs Trump. The latter is much more recent, politically relevant, and had a larger discrepancy between popular vs. electoral vote margins Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 4:28
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    @Punintended it's probably better got with Bush/Gore as Bush never claimed he won the popular vote.
    – Jontia
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 9:50
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    @Punintended True that example is more recent, but focusing solely on recency I find tends to "stoke" people more than I care to address later. Case In Point: I cannot write an answer that I want to write specifically having 0 things to do with some politicians without somebody else wanting to inject them in. History is full of good examples for all kinds of things, and I'd rather use it as a buffet of knowledge rather than gorge myself on the latest fashion.
    – user5155
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 14:03
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    Making the conclusion that voters in rural areas have smaller lines is based on the assumption that there is a set number of polling places per precinct. If the number is proportional to the population, your argument falls apart.
    – doneal24
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 20:27
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    @doneal24 Not quite "falls apart". The differences between the size of populations within districts in the same state can be extremely large, the same logic behind how there are no "fractional electors" given to states in the Electoral College. Those rounding errors to get to integers introduce the bias, and I guarantee you that, proportional or not, there is at least 1 in every district. Besides, the simple fact that each "election" is in reality a massive number of concurrent elections all running at the same time each with their own district complicates the simplicity of your observation.
    – user5155
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 20:44

affect the Democratic base, but not their own constituents

Besides the fact that you're using the word "constituents" incorrectly (everyone who is eligible to vote for you is your constituent, regardless of whether they do so), you're phrasing it as a sharper dichotomy than it is. It's not an issue of affecting only the people likely to vote for the Democrats, it's a matter of slightly favoring the Republicans. Every little bit helps, and sometimes the margin is small enough that a fraction of a percent differential can make the difference.

Are Republicans better at standing in lines than Democrats?

Democrat-leaning voters tend to live in more populous counties, so having a fixed number of polling places per county, rather than basing it on population, means that Democrats will on average have to wait in longer lines. Republican-leaning voters are more likely to be elderly, and thus retired, and so have free time to spend waiting in line, and can wait in line during off-peak hours. Democrats also tend to be poorer, and so have less free time and are less able to take off work. And Republicans tend to be more willing to endure hardship to vote.

Are they more foolhardy with respect to Covid?


They are, but there would be plenty of time to vote early or even cast mail-in/absentee ballots for Covid-conscious Democrats anyway (several weeks ahead of the voting day seems to be pretty enough still).

And Republicans are fighting against those, too. And again, it isn't about making it impossible for Democrats to vote, it's just about putting up as many barriers as possible.

As for voter ID, Democrats tend to live in urban areas where one can get by on public transit without getting a driver's license, along with other demographic trends.

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    Do they seriously have a fixed number of polling places per county? That sounds too crazy to be true.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 12:44
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    It might be good to include some examples of how Republicans are willing to suffer voting "casualties" if it disproportionately affects Democrats. For example, the Republican-introduced delays to mail in voting in 2020 negatively impacted deployed service people voting overseas: foxnews.com/politics/…
    – BurnsBA
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 15:45
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    Wouldn't old retired folks also be in worse shape, erg, worse at standing in line, compared to young healthy urban voters? Odd that your example contains it's own refutation. Maybe a slightly different argument? Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 20:42
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    @EricBrown-Cal Not really, because older retirees don't have to worry about getting the voting done quickly. They don't have to get back to work, and generally don't have to worry about things like child care, or bringing kids along, etc. Also, crowded urban centers tend to have proportionately fewer retirees. If the goal was to prevent retirees from voting, you'd see attempts to prevent wheelchairs and walkers being brought into polling places, on the grounds that [insert dubious argument here.]
    – barbecue
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 20:52
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    @EricBrown-Cal in addition to what barbecue said, retires have more flexibility about when they vote; meaning that outside the most undeserved areas they can time their trip to arrive mid-morning or mid-afternoon when volume is at it's lowest and lines are shortest or non-existent. Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 22:38

I think this whole issue would be clearer if people understood that the GOP goal here isn't voter suppression; the GOP goal is voter attrition. Every hoop to jump, every obstacle to navigate, every inconvenience and frustration, translates to a higher likelihood that a given voter will just say 'to hell with it' and not vote. The GOP-sponsored laws in question specifically target things that make voting more convent for lower-income citizens in more densely populated areas, because such people are far more likely to vote Democratic. They don't care if GOP voters are impacted as well, so long as more Democratic voters walk away from the polls.

For example, when the GOP:

  • reduces early voting opportunities
  • limits or eliminates drop-off ballot locations
  • bans or restricts church or community programs to get people to the polls
  • bars people from distributing food and drink at polling stations

the restrictions have practically no impact on rural and suburban voters. They may be slightly inconvenienced at having to drive farther, and might see see their wait time at the polling station increase by ten or fifteen minutes, but there's nothing particularly difficult in dealing with those issues. In urban regions, however, more people are forced to go the polls via public transportation, which become impacted, and large numbers of people are funneled into polling places with limited numbers of voting machines on election day itself, often resulting in wait times of two to three hours. And riding the crush of public transportation to wait two to three hours in the November chill, without access to food, water, or restrooms... That's daunting for a young person in good health, never mind someone aged, disabled, or ill.

And let's not discuss the catch-22 of requiring some specific form of ID to vote, all while closing, moving, or limiting the hours on agencies that provide those IDs. If I'm a business owner or a salaried employee I can afford to lose a day hunting down a valid ID and waiting in line to vote. If I work an hourly wage that's a lot of time and money down the drain.

To be a bit cynically frank, I prefer it when Right-wing Republicans are overtly oppressive: at least that has the virtue of honesty. This underhanded effort to use the limitations of human physiology — hunger, thirst, cold, impatience, etc — against voters is (to my mind) thoroughly despicable.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – JJJ
    Commented Jan 15, 2022 at 18:42

Something missing from the other answers are the most fundamental voter rights of all: that your vote be counted, and that the majority vote decides the election result. Quoting from Voting Rights Lab, also reported in CNN, The New York Times, The Guardian, and USA Today among others (emphasis mine):

So far this session, more than 180 bills shifting election authority have been introduced. These new laws have taken a variety of forms. Some give partisan actors more power to shape and control election outcomes, or limit the autonomy of local election officials. Some give partisan poll watchers the ability to intimidate and harass voters. Others criminalize election workers for simply doing their jobs. The most concerning bills would enable partisan state legislatures to overturn election results.

Note that Politifact (writing about a similar claim by President Joe Biden) say the claim about overturning election results is "too speculative for us to render a Truth-O-Meter rating", partly because most of the worst bills identified by this report didn't make it into law and it's not clear that attempts to pass similar laws will succeed, and partly because it's not clear that attempts to overturn election results on the basis of these bills (if made law) would be successful if challenged in court.

Still, even if we just consider laws (rather than bills, i.e. proposed laws) and drop the issue of overturning election results after a count is complete, these laws create other ways for Republicans to prevent certain votes from being made and counted, such as replacing election officials with partisans, making it harder to stop voter intimidation, and allowing unlimited procedural challenges which could prevent a count from being completed on time.

All of that said, this depends a lot on interpretation and assumptions about what Republicans are likely to try to use their laws to do, and the legal analysis itself is disputed in some cases. Nonetheless, I think it is worth adding these kinds of Republican bills and laws into the discussion, because they could potentially have a far greater impact than "traditional" voter suppression methods.

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    I'm not quite seeing how this is related to the question "How do the Republicans' laws make it harder for Democratic voters to vote?"
    – BurnsBA
    Commented Jan 12, 2022 at 15:47
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    Good point. Making a vote irrelevant is certainly a law making it harder for Democrats to vote in a way that makes a difference, which is implicit in the question.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 0:04

I read this BBC article, but it's not totally clear for me why the recent voting rights laws passed in more than a dozen Republican-controlled state legislatures affect the Democratic base, but not their own constituents.

That's because they don't. In fact, the provisions so loudly criticized by Democrats in Republican-controlled states tend to be similar to (and in many cases actually less restrictive than) rules in deep-blue states that never seem to get the same criticism. This is likely to get downvoted given the climate around here, but the facts of the matter are clear and well-documented, frequently even by left-leaning sources, because this is mostly a non-partisan matter of simple truth; all but the most extreme of Democratic operatives are on the same page as the Republicans here. The inescapable truth is, the "Republican voter suppression" they're protesting does. Not. Exist.

Let's look at a few of the myths being used to promote this Big Lie. They look convincing at first glance, but none of them hold up to even modest amounts of scrutiny.

  1. Getting photo ID is expensive, and therefore discriminates against the poor. The truth is, there's a name for a legal requirement to pay for access to the polls: a poll tax. This practice is explicitly prohibited by the 24th Amendment, and that prohibition has been interpreted exactly this way by the courts. In every jurisdiction where government-issued ID is a voting requirement, the government must (and actually does) offer a valid form of ID free of charge. (It still costs to get a driver's license, but driver's licenses are not the only form of state-issued photo ID.)
  2. Election integrity laws limit access to voting. This is simply a straight-up, transparently cynical, lying-through-their-teeth falsehood. For example, with regards to the recent, much-criticized Georgia law, the Washington Post (hardly a bastion of conservative ideology!) declared that "the net effect of the new early-voting rules was to expand the opportunities to vote for most Georgians, not limit them". They note, "We were curious what the early-voting rules were in Delaware, Biden’s home state. It turns out [unlike Georgia] Delaware did not allow any in-person early voting in 2020," and gave the President's patently false claims (and by extension the same claims coming from sources other than Joe Biden) "Four Pinocchios."
  3. Prohibitions on ballot-harvesting discriminate against low-mobility individuals. Again, this is a flat-out lie. The very article cited by William Walker III in his answer in support of this notion explicitly states that "There's an exception for an election official helping voters who are hospitalized or in assisted living settings."
  4. Making it illegal to hand out food and drink at polling places suppresses the votes of... umm... somebody, because... uhh... reasons. Like, just look how mean it is to make all these poor voters go hungry! This ridiculously cynical criticism assumes listeners are ignorant of a corrupt practice that's been going on for so long that the term for it sounds archaic to modern ears: "swilling the planters with bumbo." The use of food and drink as transparent bribery to buy votes has been around throughout American history and in fact longer than America has existed, with early examples dating back to the proto-republics of Greece and Rome.

Perhaps the most damning debunking of all, though, is that the basic premise is simply false. All the explanations of "how voter suppression works" take for granted the "fact" that it is actually happening, but if "voter suppression" laws were suppressing votes, less votes would be being cast. But they aren't. Quite the opposite, in fact! Multiple studies show that election integrity laws have no statistically-significant suppression effect, and in fact often tend to slightly increase voter turnout by increasing voters' confidence that their votes will be fairly counted.

Given the massive supermajority of Americans who support election integrity laws (over 80%), and particularly the strong support for such laws among Democratic voters (over 60%!), it's a bit mystifying to see Democratic politicians harping on the notion so much. It's not even a winning issue for them among their own voters, let alone the rest of the country, and continuing to push these easily-refuted lies, rather than focusing on real issues actually affecting the American people, can only hurt them going into a midterm election that's already looking historically bad for the Democratic Party. If they choose to make this their proverbial "hill to die on," the most likely outcome is that they will indeed get electorally slaughtered upon it!

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – JJJ
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 23:21
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    Thanks for taking the time to state reality. It's tough to read everyone jumping on this "it's voter suppression" bandwagon. Personally I am mortified every time I go to vote and all I have to do is give my name - we are using the honor system to protect the most important event in our nation. Photo ID should be a no-brainer and everyone should want it. It's just crazy that we have to have this debate.
    – Joshu's Mu
    Commented Jan 14, 2022 at 16:11
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    This is a really partisan answer. The intro strawmans, point1 fixates on direct monetary expense, point2 strawmans, point3 fixates on hospitalized and assisted living, point4 prevaricates
    – bukwyrm
    Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 14:51
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    @bukwyrm This is an inherently partisan question. All of the answers are partisan; it's just that mine is true. Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 15:51

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