Voter ID Laws Do Hurt Voter Turnout, Study Shows

October 9, 2014

States that toughened their voter identification laws saw steeper drops in election turnout than those that did not, with disproportionate falloffs among black and younger voters, a nonpartisan congressional study released Wednesday concluded.

As of June, 33 states have enacted laws obligating voters to show a photo ID at the polls, the study said. Republicans who have pushed the legislation say the requirement will reduce fraud, but Democrats insist the laws are a GOP effort to reduce Democratic turnout on Election Day.

The report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative agency, was released less than a month from elections that will determine which party controls Congress.

The office compared election turnout in Kansas and Tennessee — which tightened voter ID requirements between the 2008 and 2012 elections — to voting in four states that didn’t change their identification requirements.

It estimated that reductions in voter turnout were about 2 percent greater in Kansas and from 2 percent to 3 percent steeper in Tennessee than they were in the other states examined. The four other states, which did not make their voter ID laws stricter, were Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, and Maine.

“GAO’s analysis suggests that the turnout decreases in Kansas and Tennessee beyond decreases in the comparison states were attributable to changes in those two states’ voter ID requirements,” the report said.

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