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69 UCLA L. Rev. 1028 (2022-2023)
Questioning Questions in the Law of Democracy: What the Debate over Voter ID Laws' Effects Teaches about Asking the Right Questions

handle is hein.journals/uclalr69 and id is 1062 raw text is: 

Questioning Questions in the Law of Democracy:

What the Debate Over Voter ID Laws' Effects Teaches

About Asking the Right Questions

Emily   Rong   Zhang


Voter identification laws (voter ID laws), laws that require voters to present identification when
voting, launched the modern Voting Wars.  After the Supreme Court blessed Indiana's voter ID
law in Crawford v. Marion County, voter ID laws proliferated across the country. Their prevalence
belies their notoriety. They remain one of the most hotly contested category of election laws and are
often referred to as a voter suppression law, if not the modern voter suppression law.

While these laws first served as a rallying cry for the election law, they have become a sore spot
for what is historically a collaborative and close community of social scientists, lawyers, and legal
scholars. Many  social scientists have concluded that voter ID laws have had negligible effects, if
any, on voter turnout. That conclusion may seem surprising-even difficult to believe-given how
many  eligible voters lack IDs. It has raised uncomfortable questions about whether the progressive
legal alarm over voter ID laws-including litigation challenging those laws-has been warranted.

By harmonizing  the causal social science literature and descriptive evidence unearthed in the
course of litigation, this Article is the first to offer an account of why empiricists have consistently
failed to detect a turnout effect from voter ID laws. Upon investigation, what is surprising is not
that a turnout effect has not been detected, but why an effect should have been expected in the
first place. Evidence from litigation suggests that more than 99 percent of registered voters who
habitually vote may have the requisite ID for voting, even though large numbers of eligible (but
not registered) citizens lack IDs. It is therefore unsurprising that the best causal studies suggest
that voter ID laws decreased turnout (that is, voting conditional on registration) by no more than
2 percent. Those studies should not have expected any other result: existing causal studies sought
to detect an effect that descriptive evidence did not support. Thus, the discord in the literature
results not from the sidelining of important causal findings, but rather from the lack of interaction
between the causal academic literature and litigation-derived descriptive evidence.

Resolution of the debate on the turnout effects of voter ID laws has far reaching implications
for the election law community. For legal scholars in particular, doing so highlights important
responsibilities in maintaining an interdisciplinary relationship with social scientists. The
traditional notion of the interdisciplinary relationship between empiricists and lawyers in the field
of election law is one of answering questions and questioning answers, in which social scientists

69 UCLA L. REV. 1028(2022)

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