In the last decade, 34 states—including nearly a dozen since 2011—have enacted new or stricter voter-identification laws. Critics say the requirements have prevented a significant number of people from voting, but research indicates turnout in recent years has been strong. It’s possible both claims are true. The work of Michael McDonald , a political-science professor at the University of Florida and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, shows that far from being in decline, voter participation in U.S. presidential elections hit a 40-year high of 61.6% in 2008. Though participation decreased some in 2012, it still was 58.2%. The U.S. Census Bureau, whose official figures have dropped sharply since 1960, measures turnout by dividing the number of votes by the number of people who are 18 or older. Mr. McDonald performs the same math, but first he removes noncitizens and ineligible felons from the equation and adds in overseas voters, such as members of the military. His tally, he says, represents eligible voters rather than simply anyone who is old enough to vote.
Charting the results produces a time series whose peaks and valleys are similar to those created with Census figures. But with ineligible voters removed from the denominator, turnout in recent years is closer to the robust figures of the 1950s and 1960s.
So, if turnout has risen, is it possible that voter-ID laws haven’t disenfranchised eligible voters after all? Mr. McDonald and others aren’t convinced.
“My gut tells me, and you see some evidence from states, that thousands of people have not been able to vote because of the voter-ID laws,” Mr. McDonald said. “But in the big picture, you’re looking at millions or hundreds of millions of voters. So you’re talking about a relatively small population.”
Full Article: Voter-ID Rules’ Impact on Turnout Is Hard to Determine – WSJ.