Little Evidence of Diminished Turnout from Strict Voter ID

Debate over the prevalence of voter fraud recently spilled into the courtroom as numerous lawsuits by groups like the ACLU followed various voter identification laws, accusing the rules of disenfranchising those who were improperly prevented from voting.

In Kansas, thousands of voters were suspended from voting before being able to prove they were indeed American citizens according to a Reuters report.

But the situation in Kansas may be anomaly as strict voter ID laws across the country have had an inconsistent effect on voter turnout in Congressional races according to Census data and state voting laws analyzed by the The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Few states that implemented strict ID saw a drop in voting rates. Some states actually saw an increase rather than a decrease in voter turnout following strict ID implementation.

Voter turnout can be affected by many different factors besides identification laws: candidates on the ballot, ballot initiatives, current events, state populations, etc.

But the lack of an effect of strict ID may undercut both sides of the argument, both pro and con, as it implies that the new requirements are irrelevant on whether citizens or non-citizens are able to vote.

Strict Voter ID but Higher Turnout

If a voter ID law prevented non-citizens from voting, you would see both rates go down because of fewer votes. But because so many other factors affect turnout, that change can sometimes be muted.

So, in places like Tennessee, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Mississippi that implemented strict ID between 2010 and 2014, they still saw an increase in voter turnout according to numbers from the U.S. Census and information from the National Council on State Legislatures.

This could mean that there were disenfranchised voters but not enough to offset other voting trends, or it could mean few voters were affected.

Texas and North Dakota have seen declining voter turnout, but that decline has been occurring over the past few elections and appears unrelated to voter ID requirements.

Kansas is Unique

Kansas is the one state that implemented strict voter ID and saw a distinct decline in turnout, although it wasn't much. The state's citizen voting rate declined by about 2 percent.

It's also one of the few states where its citizen population rate decoupled from its total population rate around the same time. Other states like Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Arkansas had similar effects, although none of them implemented strict voter ID in that time.

All of those states also saw sizable jumps in their non-citizen populations, from 14-23 percent, around that time period from 2010-2014.

An increase in the non-citizen population would relatively lower the total population voting rate and not effect the citizen population rate. Which is exactly what happened in Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania.

The lack of an effect one way or another on voting rates in various states like Wisconsin implies that strict ID requirements may not restrict legitimate citizens from voting as has been claimed by certain advocates.