Vote Fraud in the Eye of the Beholder: The Role of Public Opinion in the Challenge to Voter Identification Requirements

39 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2008 Last revised: 10 Apr 2008

Stephen Ansolabehere

Harvard University - Department of Government

Nathaniel Persily

Columbia Law School

Date Written: February 21, 2008

Abstract

In the current debate over the constitutionality of voter identification laws, both the Supreme Court and defenders of such laws have justified them, in part, as counteracting a widespread fear of voter fraud that leads citizens to disengage from the democracy. Because actual evidence of voter impersonation fraud is rare and difficult to come by if fraud is successful, reliance on public opinion as to the prevalence of fraud threatens to allow courts to evade the difficult task of balancing the actual constitutional risks involved. In this short Article we employ a unique survey to evaluate the causes and effects of public opinion regarding voter fraud. We find that perceptions of fraud have no relationship to an individual's likelihood of turning out to vote. We also find that voters who were subject to stricter identification requirements believe fraud is just as widespread as do voters subject to less restrictive identification requirements.

Suggested Citation

Ansolabehere, Stephen and Persily, Nathaniel, Vote Fraud in the Eye of the Beholder: The Role of Public Opinion in the Challenge to Voter Identification Requirements (February 21, 2008). Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 08-170. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1099056 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1099056

Stephen Ansolabehere

Harvard University - Department of Government ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Nathaniel Persily (Contact Author)

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

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