Research Project

Angela Febres, Political Science

Advisor: Katherine McCabe, Political Science

This study examines the question of whether voter identification laws have an effect on turnout. Using an original typology, I classify states as having minimal, non-strict, or strict laws. Rather than classifying based on the stringency of the requirements within laws, I use the logic of the calculus of voting theory to classify states based on the options presented to a voter when they do not have the proper identification at the polls. Requirements dictating what voters who lack the proper ID should do might impose greater costs than whether a photo or non-photo identification is required to vote, possibly decreasing turnout. Using county-level election turnout returns from 2008, 2012, and 2016 as well as demographic data, I use the difference-in-differences method to compare voter turnout in South Carolina, a state that created a non-strict voter identification law in 2013, to North Carolina and Virginia, states that maintained the same laws during this time-frame. I find that the non-strict voter identification law had a negative but small and non-significant effect on voter turnout. It is possible that the effect is not measurable solely through an analysis of turnout and might disproportionately affect minority groups, requiring further study.