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The Determinates of State Legislator Support for Restrictive Voter ID Laws

February 2016

William D. Hicks, Seth C. McKee, Daniel A. Smith


This article examines the passage of voter ID laws by looking at the individual legislator, as opposed to state-wide legislatures. They find the likelihood that an individual lawmaker supports a voter ID bill is significantly influenced by the racial composition of his constituency district, as well as the composition electoral competition of that district. Specifically, polarization on the issue is much less divergent in noncompetitive districts, while a larger black population in a district increases the chance that a republican representative will support voter ID laws, and decreases the chance a democratic candidate will support these laws.

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Policy Implications

The finding that legislators from competitive districts are more likely to support voter ID laws may be indicative of the fact that these policies are more targeted to suppressing votes, as opposed to solving the problem of voter fraud. Further, the results suggest these policies may be targeted specifically towards minority populations, with democrats easing, and republicans hindering, their chance to vote--both for political gain.

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