(This column was from April 2021)
Measures to restrict voter access are under consideration in Texas and elsewhere. Irrespective of politics, such laws have substantial adverse economic consequences. We recently examined this issue in detail. The costs could potentially include billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of Texas jobs over the next few years. (See the full report at www.perrymangroup.com.)
Research has shown that, controlling for other factors, decreases in voting access leads to lower earnings which, in turn, impact workforce participation and employment. Reduced earnings then negatively affect household budgets and spending.
In addition, losses occur from reduced travel and tourism. Laws which decrease attendees, for example, often cause conference and event planners to avoid specific areas. Some organizations will also go elsewhere to remove the appearance of approval of the public policy (as indicated by the recent move of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game from Atlanta).
The loss of such major events brings significant costs. Both Dallas and Houston are under consideration for major roles in the 2026 FIFA World Cup, the world’s largest sporting event (and one which puts considerable emphasis on rights issues in selecting sites). If Texas were to miss the opportunity to be a primary host of the World Cup due to voter suppression, the state could sacrifice almost $3.8 billion in gross product (compared to nearly $1.8 billion for a Super Bowl and $369 million for a Final Four).
Socially conscious consumers also seek to avoid discriminatory areas for business and leisure travel. Similarly, controversial laws diminish the ability to attract knowledge workers and the companies that employ them, thus reducing long-term economic development prospects.
We estimate that measures restricting voter access would lead to an overall decrease in business activity from lower earnings, employment, and household purchasing power in Texas by 2025 of -$14.7 billion in annual gross product and -73,249 jobs (including multiplier effects). External losses (from tourism and economic development) could cause aggregate decreases of another -$16.7 billion in annual gross product and -149,644 jobs by 2025. These losses compound over time.
Business activity also generates tax revenue. The potential effects associated with measures restricting voter access would cost the State and local governments hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Access to voting improves earnings, consumer spending, tourism, and development. Conversely, laws restricting access lead to substantial economic and fiscal losses over time. While there are many other important advantages to and compelling reasons for encouraging political participation by all eligible citizens, the economic ramifications are substantial and worthy of significant attention as restrictions on voter access are considered. It is unlikely that we will remove the politics from this discussion, but we should definitely be cognizant of the economics as well. Stay safe!
Dr. M. Ray Perryman is President and Chief Executive Officer of The Perryman Group (www.perrymangroup.com), which has served the needs of over 2,500 clients over the past four decades.