Job Market Paper: Voter ID Laws Impact Turnout Through Registration
Abstract: The proliferation of voter ID laws across the US has had an ambiguous impact on turnout rates among registered voters, despite fear from civil-rights advocates that these laws would suppress turnout. I advance the literature on voter ID laws by studying how Virginia’s 2014 law impacted both turnout and registration rates, finding significant and durable declines in both measures. To do this, I gather data on registered voters who lack DMV records and track changes in voting precincts over time to identify areas of the state where more people are likely to be impacted by the voter ID law. My findings suggest that the decline in overall turnout rates in voting precincts with higher shares of voters likely to lack valid ID is driven almost entirely by declines in registration rates. Identifying this suggests that voter ID laws have an important deterrent effect that prevents new voters from participating in the electoral process. I also consider the role of countermobilization against new voting restrictions and find evidence that more Democratic parts of the state saw smaller effects from the voter ID law.
Abstract: In Shelby County v. Holder (2013), the Supreme Court struck down a core provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) that enabled federal electoral oversight in select jurisdictions. We study whether this decision disproportionately impacted ballot access for Black and Hispanic registered voters. We use a rich dataset on voter behavior for the universe of registered voters combined with Census block-level sociodemographic attributes to document a decrease in turnout for Black, relative to white, individuals. These effects are concentrated in counties with larger Black and Hispanic populations, consistent with strategic targeting of voter suppression.
Abstract: This paper explores how access to in-person early voting impacts turnout, overall and by race. We study ease of access in two senses: spatial proximity to early voting sites and length of the early voting period. We draw on data from North Carolina from 2010-2014. First, using a spatial regression discontinuity design, we find that spatial proximity is associated with increased use of early voting. This increases overall turnout of Black voters, but not white voters, as white voters close to an early voting site substitute away from election day voting. Second, we combine our regression discontinuity design with a difference-in-differences approach to assess the impacts of a 2013 North Carolina law reducing the early voting period by a week. We find that the law specifically reduced turnout of Black voters. Early voting declined for both impacted Black and white voters, but white voters simply shifted to election day voting.