Obstacles to Estimating Voter ID Laws’ Effect on Turnout
Widespread concern that voter identification laws suppress turnout among racial and ethnic minorities has made empirical evaluations of these laws crucial. But problems with administrative records and survey data impede such evaluations. We replicate and extend Hajnal, Lajevardi and Nielson (2017), which reports that voter ID laws decrease turnout among minorities, using validated turnout data from five national surveys conducted between 2006 and 2014. We show that the results of the paper are a product of data inaccuracies; the presented evidence does not support the stated conclusion; and alternative model specifications produce highly variable results. When errors are corrected, one can recover positive, negative, or null estimates of the effect of voter ID laws on turnout, precluding firm conclusions. We highlight more general problems with available data for research on election administration and we identify more appropriate data sources for research on state voting laws' effects.