Thursday, September 17, 2009

Indiana Court Strikes Down Voter ID Law

Despite the ruling by the US Supreme Court that the Indiana Voter ID law was constitutional, an Indiana appellate court on Thursday struck down the state law requiring voters to show identification.  

The ruling argues that the Indiana constitution's guarantee to equal protection is more expansive than the 14th Amendment.  The court states that the Voter ID laws pose more stringent identification requirements on in-person voters than absentee voters, and if the intent was to reduce voter fraud, the law should be doing the exact opposite.

I agree with this reasoning, but this can be alleviated by simply imposing similar standards to absentee voters.  As my co-authored paper concludes, the current law would impose an undue burden on racial minorities and other demographics, potentially having a negative impact on participation.

The political issue at hand, however, is that these laws are being passed in increasingly "purple" states, such as Arizona, Georgia, Missouri and Indiana, and Republican legislators are trying to stop the bleeding.  Some argue this is why absentee voters are explicitly excluded from the more stringent voting requirements.   Absentee voters may tend to vote more Republican since they are older, have higher levels of income and are not as mobile.  It is obvious that increasing the cost of voting will reduce participation, but some of the research suggests that overall turnout may not be negatively impacted by these laws.  This apparent paradox, however, could be explained by an increase in non-minority voters due to greater confidence in the integrity of the electoral system as a result of the Voter ID laws, even though fewer minority voters turn out to vote on election day.

So far the aggregate data supports this explanation for the paradox even though the individual level data disputes it.  Perhaps this is a relic of the data, in that some of these states have relatively small minority populations.  A small increase in non-minority participation would more than make up for significant drops in minority participation.

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