NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Strict ID Laws Don't Stop Voters: Evidence from a U.S. Nationwide Panel, 2008-2018

Enrico Cantoni, Vincent Pons

NBER Working Paper No. 25522
Issued in February 2019, Revised in March 2020
NBER Program(s):Political Economy

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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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25522

 
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