There has been a lot of teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing over new voter ID laws.* Proponents claim that they want to prevent voter fraud and opponents assert that the real goal is to suppress minority votes (usually assumed to vote Democratic). Assuming the more pernicious motive is suppression, do they work? A new study in State Politics and Policy Quarterly by researchers from the University of Georgia says, yes, but that the suppression effect doesn't seem to accurately target racial or ethnic minorities. From the abstract:
Voter identification (ID) policies, especially those of the photo ID variety, have been hotly contested over the last few years. The primary concern surrounding these statutes amounts to lower turnout, especially among certain groups in the electorate, such as racial/ethnic minorities. In 2007, the way was cleared for Georgia to implement a new statute requiring registrants to present a government-issued photo ID to vote. Using population data on registrants from two election cycles coupled with information on a subgroup of registrants known to lack photo ID, we conduct a policy impact analysis of the Georgia voter ID law. We find that the new law did produce a suppression effect among those registrants lacking proper ID. Substantively, the law lowered turnout by about four-tenths of a percentage point in 2008. However, we find no empirical evidence to suggest that there is a racial or ethnic component to this suppression effect.
As background, read my colleague Katherine Mangu-Ward's insightful article on why you shouldn't bother voting anyway.
*Before anyone jumps on me, I favor same-day voter registration at polling places. For what's it worth, I am ignoring Katherine's advice and voting for Gary Johnson and in favor of a Virginia initiative that would amend our constitution to prevent the state and city governments from using eminent domain to take property from one private individual and giving it to another. And while I'm at it, I will complain that someone in the People's Republic of Charlottesville stole our Gary Johnson for President sign from in front of our house.