Empirically Assessing the Impact of Photo Identification at the Polls through an Examination of Provisional Balloting
53 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2008 Last revised: 18 Feb 2012
Date Written: October 21, 2008
Despite the Supreme Court's opinion from last term in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, it seems like the debate over laws that require prospective voters at the polls to present government-issued photo identification will continue to rage in both legislatures and courtrooms throughout America. However, one of the fundamental missing pieces in this debate is an empirical assessment of how many prospective voters are unable to cast a countable ballot because of photo identification laws. This article analyzes data related to the 2008 Indiana primary election to determine: (1) how many voters arrived at the polling place without a photo identification and then cast a provisional ballot; and (2) how many of the photo identification-related provisional ballots were ultimately counted. Importantly, the analysis presented here takes a unique empirical approach because as part of this research actual documents related to provisional ballots were obtained. In the end, it is estimated that at the 2008 primary election nearly 400 persons cast provisional ballots because they lacked photo identification and the vast majority (80% of those ballots) were not counted. After presenting the numbers, this Article concludes with a discussion of the limits of this study and how opponents and proponents of photo identification might employ this research in the ongoing debate over photo identification.
Keywords: democracy, voter id, crawford, voting rights, provisional ballots
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