Voter ID laws

I see there is a new ballot initiative being proposed in Mississippi to require voters to present photo IDs when voting.  This is no doubt one of many Red state attempts to take advantage of last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court Case Indiana Democratic Party v. Rotika, which finally concluded (6-3) that such rules were constitutional.

The reason photo ID rules are controversial is because many low-income people do not have such IDs, and these laws effectively disenfranchise them.  This might be viewed as an unfortunate side-effect if voter fraud were a real problem, but everything I’ve read said it was not.  In fact, during the oral argument of the Indiana case last summer, the Indiana attorney general conceded that Indiana had NEVER had a case of voter impersonation.  

Americanists:  Has anyone done any studies on these laws to see how they affect turnout, generally and specifically as to low-income voters?  I’d be curious to see what the effect is.


About Jake Wobig

I teach international relations and comparative politics at Wingate University in Wingate, North Carolina
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One Response to Voter ID laws

  1. Mike Wagner says:

    Yup, in fact, I am one of those Americanists. The January PS has a forum on this issue.

    We find that Voter ID laws do not affect turnout. We find that when you control for political interest, Voter ID laws have an effect that is not different from zero on turnout.

    That said, I think it would be interesting to see if states with restrictive Voter ID laws have less politically interested citizens. The roundabout hypothesis might be that low income and non-white citizens may see the Voter ID laws as yet another brick in the wall, so to speak, to keep them from participating. Thus, they throw up their hands and say ‘what’s the point of being interested in, following, or participating in politics?’

    Other folks do show that low income people and non-whites are less likely to have the appropriate ID needed to vote in states with restrictive laws, but that is a different finding than Voter ID laws affect turnout. Indiana, which has the nation’s most restrictive law, also gives free state IDs to anyone who wants one and gives an average of several hundred thousand out a year. And, the average BMV (Indiana calls the DMV the BMV) is less than 3 miles from any home and has an average wait of less than 30 minutes. So, it isn’t all that obtrusive to get an ID.

    That said, someone working a few jobs for no money probably can’t get to the BMV during business hours for the free ID or may just find that’s too much effort to undertake so they can vote. But, that’s the evidence to date, anyway.

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