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Published October 2014 | Supplemental Material + Published
Journal Article Open

Who Asks For Voter Identification? Explaining Poll-Worker Discretion


As street-level bureaucrats, poll workers bear the primary responsibility for implementing voter identification requirements. Voter identification requirements are not implemented equally across groups of voters, and poll workers exercise substantial discretion in how they apply election law. In states with minimal and varying identification requirements, poll workers appear to treat especially minority voters differently, requesting more stringent voter identification. We explain why poll workers are different from other street-level bureaucrats and how traditional mechanisms of control have little impact on limiting poll-worker discretion. We test why many poll workers appear not to follow the law using a post-election survey of New Mexico poll workers. We find little evidence that race, training, or partisanship matters. Instead, poll worker attitudes toward photo-identification policies and their educational attainment influences implementation of voter-identification laws.

Additional Information

© 2014 Southern Political Science Association. Published online: 30 July 2014. Support for this research was provided by the Pew Center on the States and the JEHT Foundation. We thank the following election officials for their assistance: Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver and her Deputy Robert Adams, Doña Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins, San Juan County Clerks Fran Hanhardt and Debbie Holmes, Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza and her Deputy Denise Lamb, New Mexico Secretary of State Mary Herrera, and research assistants Lisa A. Bryant and David Odegard.

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Published - S0022381614000528a.pdf

Supplemental Material - displaySuppMaterial.docx


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August 20, 2023
October 17, 2023