Strategy or Identity? An Analysis of the Adoption and Implementation of Voter Suppression by the Republican Party



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Democracy has been considered to be at the core of the American ethos since the country’s founding, though the privilege of civic participation has never been equally accessible. In particular, large populations in the United States have been denied the right to vote throughout history, keeping power concentrated in the hands of a select few. The phenomenon of voter suppression has especially skyrocketed since the 2020 presidential election, and these efforts have been overwhelmingly spearheaded by the Republican party. This research explores the factors motivating contemporary voter suppression efforts as well as the effects and distribution of voter suppression legislation. Drawing on theories of party development and ideology, I propose the “party identity hypothesis:” that the support for voter suppression by the Republican party is not merely a strategy to win elections, but rather an adoption of the practice as a key element of the party’s identity. To test this hypothesis, I have created a voter suppression index tool to measure the degree of voter suppression in all 50 states. The data are then analyzed using a multiple linear regression model to determine whether index scores are significantly correlated with significant degrees of electoral competition and percentages of people of color, as the existing literature suggests. I find that the only variable significantly correlated with suppressive outcomes is party affiliation, suggesting that the Republican party has motives to suppress beyond winning elections. To further support the party identity hypothesis, I identify two case studies of Republican states where voter suppression is present without significant degrees of electoral competition or large communities of color. I conclude with implications and limitations of the study as well as areas of future research that could expand the contributions of this study.



Voting, Voter Suppression, American Politics, Republican Party