Pre-Gaming the Election

Every election season, before the contest begins choking news cycles, state governments try to pass laws and regulations that will help push one party or another to victory. Republicans and Democrats tweak election laws that detail who can vote, when, where and how easy it will be, all in the belief that these administrative structures can predetermine, to a certain extent, which types of voters will come to the polls and therefore which party will have an edge.

In the 2012 cycle, Republicans control more legislatures, and they're passing more laws that they think give the advantage to their party. [USA TODAY reports]( that 17 states could require voters present a government-issued ID in order to exercise the franchise. In Texas, a concealed hand-gun permit would count; a student ID would not. Florida is making it harder for third parties to register voters.

There's little real evidence to show the impact of these types of laws on election-day outcomes. Studying election day behavior is difficult: opportunities to gather real-world data come only every couple of years. In 2004, for instance, much was made of long lines on election day at polling places that served Ohio students. But [the first academic study]( of how common lines are at polling places didn't happen until 2008. Although it's been reported that long lines appear at polling places in minority or low-income neighborhoods, there's really no data that shows that happens more frequently in those neighborhoods.

In the USA TODAY article, Charles Stewart, a political scientist who studies elections, says as much: "Supporters of the voter ID laws have little evidence that there are problems with voting that would be solved by these laws…On the other hand … people who really care about laws about access to the polls oftentimes overestimate the effect of these reforms on turnout."

The "problems with voting" that these laws are meant to solve are problems connected to voter fraud. But voter fraud, it's been shown, does not happen often and certainly does not happen often enough to affect elections. There's no need for these laws. And while these laws might not disenfranchise as many voters as Democrats fear, if they disenfranchise anyone at all, they're doing a disservice to democracy.