Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) resisted the lock-step effort by House Republicans last week. In a lame-duck session, Republicans in the House voted to eliminate the right of registered voters who lacked an acceptable photo ID to instead vote a regular ballot after signing an affidavit attesting to their identify. House Bill 6066 would have done away with affidavit ballots–some 18,000 of which were cast (and counted) in the 2016 General Election.
Although Republican support for strict voter ID laws is a necessary condition–only a single Democratic-controlled legislature (Rhode Island) has passed a restrictive law, as my colleagues and I argue in our 2015 Political Research Quarterly article, it’s not a sufficient condition. Not all Republican-controlled legislatures have pushed for, nor adopted more restrictive voter ID laws. Instead, our findings show it is a combination of partisan control and the broader electoral context in a state that drives enactment of such measures.
We extend this analysis in our 2016 State Politics and Policy Quarterly article, in which we examine individual legislators’ votes on all of the restrictive voter identification (ID) bills that received a floor vote across the states from 2005 to 2013. Again, going beyond the base partisan polarization that characterizes the the votes of most state lawmakers on voting related issues, we find a notable relationship between the racial composition of a member’s district and electoral competition shapes the likelihood that a state lawmaker supports a restrictive voter ID bill. Most notably, we find that Democratic lawmakers representing substantial black district populations are more opposed to restrictive voter ID laws, whereas Republican legislators with substantial black district populations are more supportive of the laws. Finally, we find that in those state legislatures where electoral competition is not intense, polarization over voter ID laws is less stark, which likely reflects the expectation that adopting restrictive voter ID laws will have little bearing on the outcome of state legislative contests.