Props to Michigan Senate Republicans for refusing to take up an unnecessarily restrictive voter ID law.

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.

MI Republicans adopt strict Voter ID bills in lame-duck session. Wonder if electoral competition is tight…

William D. Hicks, Seth C. McKee, and Daniel A. Smith, “The Determinants of State Legislator Support for Restrictive Voter ID Laws,” State Politics and Policy Quarterly 16:4 (December): 411-31.

 

Abstract

We examine state legislator behavior on restrictive voter identification (ID) bills from 2005 to 2013. Partisan polarization of state lawmakers on voter ID laws is well known, but we know very little with respect to other determinants driving this political division. A major shortcoming of extant research evaluating the passage of voter ID bills stems from using the state legislature as the unit of analysis. We depart from existing scholarship by using the state legislator as our unit of analysis, and we cover the entirety of the period when restrictive voter ID laws became a frequent agenda item in state legislatures. Beyond the obviously significant effect of party affiliation, we find a notable relationship between the racial composition of a member’s district, region, and electoral competition and the likelihood that a state lawmaker supports a voter ID bill. 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. We also find Southern lawmakers (particularly Democrats) are more opposed to restrictive voter ID legislation. In particular, we find black legislators in the South are the least supportive of restrictive voter ID bills, which is likely tied to the historical context associated with state laws restricting electoral participation. Finally, in those state legislatures where electoral competition is not intense, polarization over voter ID laws is less stark, which likely reflects the expectation that the reform will have little bearing on the outcome of state legislative contests.

 

Full article available here:

Donovan, Mooney, & Smith, State & Local Politics, cited in Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissent

in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The opinion is available here.

Here are the relevant passages….

Cite as: 572 U. S. ___ (2014)   19
SOTOMAYOR, J., dissenting

And the costs of qualifying an amendment are significant. For example, “[t]he vast majority of petition efforts . . . require initiative sponsors to hire paid petition circulators, at significant expense.” Segura Brief 10; see also T. Donovan, C. Mooney, & D. Smith, State and Local Politics: Institutions and Reform 96 (2012) (hereinafter Donovan) (“In many states, it is difficult to place a measure on the ballot unless professional petition firms are paid to collect some or all the signatures required for qualification”);

 

20 SCHUETTE v. BAMN
SOTOMAYOR, J., dissenting

In 2008, for instance, over $800 million was spent nationally on state-level initiative and referendum campaigns, nearly $300 million more than was spent in the 2006 cycle. Donovan 98. “In several states, more money [is] spent on ballot initiative campaigns than for all other races for political office combined.” Ibid.