The Corner

Elections

‘We Find that [Voter ID] Laws Have No Negative Effect on Registration or Turnout.’

An election worker checks a voter’s drivers license as North Carolina’s “Voter ID” law goes into effect for the state’s presidential primary election at a polling place in Charlotte, N.C., March 15, 2016. (Chris Keane/Reuters)

A few days ago, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger observed on this site, “a sudden surge in new support for voter ID. Stacey Abrams and Georgia senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, for example, have suddenly become big supporters of voter ID despite repeatedly referring to the provisions of Georgia’s new election law, which imposes an ID requirement on absentee ballots, as ‘Jim Crow 2.0.’”

Zachary Evans noted polling indicates large bipartisan majorities support voter ID laws, and Isaac Schorr laid out how Abrams and Warnock could not plausibly claim to have always supported voter ID.

But the question remains why some of the Democrats who had most staunchly demonized voter ID were willing to make such a sudden and dramatic about-face.

Perhaps the evidence was mounting that Democrats were expending energy and political capital to prevent measures that created no measurable disadvantage to their party or candidates. On May 22, the Quarterly Journal of Economics unveiled the results of an extensive study:

U.S. states increasingly require identification to vote—an ostensible attempt to deter fraud that prompts complaints of selective disenfranchisement. Using a difference-in-differences design on a panel data set with 1.6 billion observations, 2008–2018, we find that the laws have no negative effect on registration or turnout, overall or for any group defined by race, gender, age, or party affiliation… Overall, our findings suggest that efforts to improve elections may be better directed at other reforms.

This deep dive into the data suggested that Democrats were taking an unpopular stand for no real benefit. In that situation… why wouldn’t Democrats try to use voter ID as a bargaining chip to win other policy concessions?

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