The Heinz Eulau prize is awarded annually for the best article published in the American Political Science Review in the past calendar year. The award is supported by Cambridge University Press.
White, Nathan, and Faller examine an important contemporary political issue: voter identification (ID) laws that have emerged in 31 states. Because many citizens do not know if they need IDs to vote, or what type of IDs are required, they ask local officials for help. Using a field experiment involving 7,000 election officials in 48 states, the paper examines whether local election administrators discriminate in the information they provide to voters. In their experiment, the authors e-mailed local officials asking either what ID would be needed in the upcoming election, or whether the citizen was required to vote in the primary election in order to vote in the general election.
The paper finds that officials discriminate on the basis of ethnicity: administrators are less likely to respond to emails sent from Latino aliases as opposed to non-Latino white aliases. Further, responses to Latino aliases are of lower quality. The paper highlights the issue of racial profiling by local officials and how this leads to systematic bias against minority citizens who wish to exercise their franchise. The committee was impressed by the substantive issue of enquiry, which has far reaching implications for the study of democracy and equity. Furthermore, the field experiment was imaginative, well-designed and executed, and allowed the authors to systematically answer their research question.
Special thanks to our committee Aseem Prakash, University of Washington (Chair); Michelle Dion, McMaster University; Martin Gilens, Princeton University