The right to vote: Do strict photo ID laws affect voter turnout?

Keith Douglas Ferguson, Tennessee State University


The very basis of a democracy rests on the ability of the people to participate in a process whereby they elect those who will govern them. In a 1965 address to Congress, President Lyndon B. Johnson maintained that for over two hundred years, Americans had fought and died to defend a nation committed to "government by consent of the governed" based on the premise that "all men are created equal" (Johnson, 1965). A careful review of suffrage in the United States reveals a struggle that has existed for well over two centuries and persists to this very day. The 2000 presidential election ushered in an era of distrust in the election process and in the way ballots were counted, particularly in the state of Florida. Following numerous lawsuits and appeals which took the case before the United States Supreme Court, a verdict was rendered, but the damage was done. For many Americans, the election process in the United States was in need of reform, and in 2002 Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in an effort to make it "easier to vote and harder to cheat" (Reform, 2005, p. 2). In 2005, some state legislatures began to consider requiring all voters to produce photo identification in order to cast a ballot making it more difficult to cheat. Opponents argued that this requirement will disenfranchise certain segments of the voting populace, making it more difficult to vote. Currently four states, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, and Tennessee have implemented this requirement, with numerous others currently considering similar laws. This study reviewed voter turnout between 2004 and 2012 in the four states with the law and three without the law in an effort to determine the impact on turnout. With regard to voter turnout in states with strict photo ID laws, the results were mixed. In states where voters vote by political party, the data showed no effects on voter turnout. The results also demonstrated no difference in turnout among African Americans or White voters, while other voters showed a decline in turnout.

Subject Area

Political science|Public administration|Public policy

Recommended Citation

Keith Douglas Ferguson, "The right to vote: Do strict photo ID laws affect voter turnout?" (2014). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3641775.