Voting But For the Law: Evidence from Virginia on Photo Identification Requirements


Hopkins, Daniel J., et al. Forthcoming. “Voting But For the Law: Evidence from Virginia on Photo Identification Requirements”. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 14 (1) : 79-128. Copy at
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Date Published:

Mar. 2017


One contentious question in contemporary election administration is the impact of voter identification requirements. We study a Virginia law which allows us to isolate the impact of requiring voters to show photo identification. Using novel, precinct-level data, we find that the percentage of registered voters without a driver's license and over age 85 are both positively associated with the number of provisional ballots cast due to lacking a photo ID. To examine the law's impact on turnout, we associate precinct-level demographics with the change in turnout between the 2013 gubernatorial and 2014 midterm elections. All else equal, turnout was higher in places where more active registered voters lacked a driver's license. This unexpected relationship might be explained by a targeted Department of Elections mailing, suggesting that the initial impact of voter ID laws may hinge on efforts to notify voters likely to be affected.

Last updated on 04/21/2017