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Evolution of an Issue: Voter ID Laws in the American States

June 2013

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


The authors analyze State Legislature’s attempts pass voter identification laws and find a changing nature in the pursuance of these laws. In the early 2000s, the focus of these law’s passage was an effort to be in compliance with the Help America Vote Act. Recently, however, attempts to pass such laws have been surrounded with extreme political polarization, taking the role of what the authors call “a pawn in the larger partisan game of electoral politics.” Additionally, they find that not all republican states equally pursue voter ID laws. Rather the state’s turnout rate, whether it is a “battleground state,” and other demographics influence whether or not it will pursue these laws.

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Policy Implications

This article argues that voter ID laws are no longer pursued in an effort to improve elections, but rather for political gain. This suggests that, if such policies do not actually improve elections, they may be needlessly disenfranchising voters, with no gains in return.

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