Does Voter ID Law Suppress Democratic Voting?

A new study examining the effects of voter identification requirements suggests that such laws may not have the effects that many assume. Paper, “Who Benefits from Voter Identification Laws?” by Jeffrey Harden and Alejandra Campos, challenges the assumption that such requirements reduce Democratic turnout or otherwise favor Republicans.

Here is the abstract:

In the first two decades of the 21st century, many American state governments implemented voter identification (ID) laws for elections held in their states. These laws, which typically mandate photo ID and/or require significant effort by voters without ID, have sparked an ongoing national debate over the tension between election security and access in a democratic society. Proponents of the laws—primarily Republican Party politicians—claim they prevent voter fraud, while Democratic opponents decry the disproportionate burden they place on historically disadvantaged groups such as the poor and people of color. While these positions may reflect sincerely held beliefs, they also align with the rational electoral strategies of political parties as parties who may be disenfranchised by law support Democratic candidates. Is this biased opinion about the impact of voter ID correct? Existing research focuses on how voter ID laws affect voter turnout and fraud. But the extent to which they create observable electoral advantages for Republican candidates and/or penalize Democrats remains an open question. We examine how voter ID affects the electoral fortunes of parties at the state level (state legislatures and governorships) and at the federal level (US Congress and presidency) between 2003 and 2020. Our results suggest negligible average effects but some variation over time . The first laws implemented generated a Democratic advantage, which after 2012 became close to zero. We conclude that voter ID requirements motivate and mobilize supporters of both parties, ultimately reducing their expected effects on election outcomes.