"More trust means more votes"

Picture this: Suppose making voters show some secure ID increased turnout in Milwaukee?

The partisan trench lines on photo identification run the other way now: Democrats say that since driver's licenses are rarer among poor people, black men and the elderly, such voters would be discouraged. They say Republicans back ID to suppress turnout. Republicans counter that they're eager to suppress turnout by guys named Mickey D. Maus whose home address turns out to be the Wisconsin Ave. viaduct.

Either way, the presumption is for fewer votes in Milwaukee.

John R. Lott Jr. suggests otherwise. He's an economist who raised eyebrows some years ago with data showing that more legal gun possession can reduce crime. He published a paper last month looking for effects from voter-ID requirements.

He didn't find much evidence about mandatory picture IDs, since such rules are new and rare in this country. But he did find signs that other tough anti-fraud rules, similarly criticized, didn't hurt turnout among minorities, the poor and the elderly. And while ID rules didn't affect turnout much overall, he says, they appeared to increase it in what the bipartisan American Center for Voting Rights identified as fraud hot spots.

Milwaukee made that list in the center's report, by the way, which suggests that tightening up here could have just such an effect.

What underlies the numbers, says Lott, is that while ID rules may both suppress legitimate voters or comb out fakes, a third thing may be happening: Voters gain added confidence that their votes won't be negated by fraud. More people vote if they know the vote is fair and accurate, and this effect would be highest in places with the worst reputations.

He says the numbers show that's what's happening.

And there is evidence about mandatory photo IDs as well, he says: Mexico has required them since 1991. Turnout has risen since.. . .


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