The Effect of Voter Identification Laws on TurnoutWorking Paper No.: 57
Date Published: 2008-11-30
R. Michael Alvarez, California Institute of Technology
Delia Bailey, Washington University in St. Louis
Jonathan N. Katz, California Institute of Technology
Since the passage of the “Help America Vote Act” in 2002, nearly half of the states have adopted a variety of new identiﬁcation requirements for voter registration and participation by the 2006 general election. There has been little analysis of whether these requirements reduce voter participation, especially among certain classes of voters. In this paper we document the effect of voter identiﬁcation requirements on registered voters as they were imposed in states in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, and in the 2002 and 2006 midterm elections. Looking ﬁrst at trends in the aggregate data, we ﬁnd no evidence that voter identiﬁcation requirements reduce participation. Using individual-level data from the Current Population Survey across these elections, however, we ﬁnd that the strictest forms of voter identiﬁcation requirements — combination requirements of presenting an identiﬁcation card and positively matching one’s signature with a signature either on ﬁle or on the identiﬁcation card, as well as requirements to show picture identiﬁcation — have a negative impact on the participation of registered voters relative to the weakest requirement, stating one’s name. We also ﬁnd evidence that the stricter voter identiﬁcation requirements depress turnout to a greater extent for less educated and lower income populations, but no racial differences.