Voters in more than two dozen states next month will be asked to provide some form of identification before casting a ballot. How many Americans who would otherwise vote will be turned away or won’t turn up at all remains a hotly contested number. Some researchers have tried to count the number of voters affected, by surveying people about whether they have the required ID. This has produced a wide range of results, though, and some researchers question whether people whose IDs aren’t valid are aware of it, and whether they would rectify the situation if their state passed a tough ID law. Other researchers instead study actual effects of voter-ID laws on past turnouts. But the strictest forms of such laws—which require photographic identification and are studied most closely because they are thought likeliest to exclude the greatest number of people—took effect just before an exceptional presidential election that made it difficult to isolate their effect. As a result, such studies haven’t been able to convincingly demonstrate that these laws suppress turnout. “It’s so tricky to filter out unrelated factors, some of them unique to the election cycle, that may dissuade people from voting,” said Tim Vercellotti, a political scientist at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass.
One of the earliest, and most cited, estimates of the effect of voter-ID laws came from New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, which opposes what it considers “overly restrictive” ID requirements. In 2006, the center commissioned a survey of 987 Americans and found that “as many as” 11% of adult citizens lack government-issued photo ID. This, the center concluded, could mean that if every state required such ID at the polls, more than 21 million Americans could be disenfranchised.
Robert A. Pastor, co-director of the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University in Washington, D.C., was lead author of a study summarizing surveys conducted in Indiana, Maryland, and Mississippi that found just 1.2% of registered voters lack photo IDs. Prof. Pastor said the Brennan Center study was “designed to frighten Democrats.” Wendy Weiser, director of the demography program at the Brennan Center, calls the Pastor study, in turn, “such an outlier.”
Full Article: Effect of States’ Voter Laws Is Hard to Identify – WSJ.com.