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Strict ID Laws Don’t Stop Voters: Evidence from a U.S. Nationwide Panel, 2008–2018

  • Author(s):
  • Enrico Cantoni
  • Vincent Pons

U.S. states increasingly require identification to vote – an ostensive attempt to deter fraud that prompts complaints of selective disenfranchisement. Using a difference-in-differences design on a 1.6-billion observations panel dataset, 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. These results hold through a large number of specifications and cannot be attributed to voters’ reaction against the laws, measured by campaign contributions and self-reported political engagement. However, the likelihood that non-white voters were contacted by a campaign increases by 5.4 percentage points, suggesting that parties’ mobilization might have offset modest effects of the laws on the participation of ethnic minorities. Finally, strict ID requirements have no effect on fraud – actual or perceived. Overall, our findings suggest that efforts to improve elections may be better directed at other reforms.

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Publisher:Harvard Business School
Published:March 1, 2020
Copyright:© 2020 by Enrico Cantoni and Vincent Pons. All rights reserved.

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