The Costs of Voter ID Requirements

Debates over voter identification laws tend to focus on two impacts of such laws. The first is whether requiring a voter ID deters voter fraud. The second is whether the existence of such a requirement deters legitimate voters from casting ballots in elections. But there is a third impact that has received less attention: the cost of obtaining an ID. Individuals bearing these costs are disproportionately likely to be either young or old or impoverished or both, since these are the people least likely to have a driver’s license that could satisfy the law. In a recent paper, we used two techniques that have never been used before in debates over voter ID to assess the costs of a particular voter ID law in North Carolina. The first technique takes advantage of burden estimates that federal agencies have made under the Paperwork Reduction Act. Whenever agencies wish to collect information from 10 or more people, they must estimate the burden of that collection. Numerous…

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