Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Senior Honors Thesis

Department or School

Political Science

First Advisor

Beth Henschen

Second Advisor

Jeffrey Bernstein


In the aftermath of the 2016 elections there is ample data to examine trends in voter turnout across the states. This election cycle also provided the first national election in fifty years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Previously covered states and jurisdictions were no longer required to obtain preclearance in the enactment of voting legislation. This thesis will seek to answer which interest was being served by the new voting laws in several states and whether the gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the U.S. Supreme Court had an impact on voter turnout. It begins with an examination of the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County v. Holder (2013) and the restrictive voting legislation enforced for the first time in the 2016 elections. Next, voter identification laws will be discussed as a restrictive form of legislation that has had some impact on voter turnout in states. Subsequently, popular vote totals from the 2012 elections will be compared with the 2016 elections to determine whether turnout increased or decreased in certain states. This will be followed by a legal analysis of the Court's decisions to examine how the Court reached its result. Finally, legislative alternatives to the VRA will be examined as this thesis seeks to answer what effect the weakening of the VRA by the U.S. Supreme Court had on turnout.