February 12, 2019


The Myths of Voter ID (Ross Douthat, Feb. 12, 2019, NY Times)

For as long as I've been politically conscious, conservatives have touted tougher identification requirements at the polls as a means to fight the scourge of voter fraud, and over the last decade Republicans have successfully implemented voter ID laws in a number of reddish states. Over the same period those laws have been cited by liberals as evidence that Republicans are bent on winning elections by disenfranchising Democrats -- locking out poor and minority voters in a rerun of the Jim Crow-poll tax era, and electing conservative politicians at the expense of democracy itself.

You could imagine a world in which the voter ID debate reflected a real and sweeping clash of interests. If conservatives were right that the laws reduced rampant voter fraud by preventing illegal immigrants from voting for Democrats in large numbers, and meanwhile liberals were also right that the laws dramatically reduced turnout among African-Americans and other liberal-leaning constituencies, effectively limiting the right to vote, then the whole debate would be extremely consequential and difficult to resolve.

In this world, however, the stakes seem to be considerably lower. That's the conclusion of a new study, one of the largest to date, from the economists Enrico Cantoni and Vincent Pons, which assessed the impact of voter ID laws between 2008 and 2016 using a nationwide voter file. The study finds that requiring voter identification has no effect on turnout -- not overall, and not on "any group defined by race, gender, age, or party affiliation."

Posted by at February 12, 2019 6:57 PM