Dan Tokaji's Blog
Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Tuesday, September 26
 
The Impact of ID Requirements
One of the major questions in the ongoing debate regarding voter identification laws is the extent to which they will affect participation by groups of different voters. That's partly because laws requiring photo identification in order to vote are so new.

There's finally some research on this important topic. Tim Vercellotti and Dave Anderson of the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers University have released this report, recently presented at the American Political Science Association convention, entitled "Protecting the franchise or restricting it?: The effects of voter identification requirements on turnout." As the title suggests, the paper attempts to measure how voter identification requirements affect turnout. (Disclosure: the researchers compiled the data for the paper under a joint contract that the Eagleton Institute and Moritz College of Law had with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission).

An important caveat to the paper is that it was based on 2004 data. At that time, there were no states that required photo identification to cast a regular ballot -- the Georgia, Indiana, and Missouri laws were all enacted after that date. There were some states, however, that asked for photo ID but allowed voting if voters signed an affidavit regarding their eligibility, a so-called "affidavit exception."

The report thus doesn't measure the impact of the post-2004 photo ID laws of the Georgia variety, but it does have some interesting information about other, less stringent identification requirements. In particular, Vercellotti and Anderson find a "small, but still statistically significant" correlation between stricter ID and depressed turnout.

Hopefully, this will spur other researchers will take a careful look at the study's methodology and findings. More research of this type is very much needed.

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Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University