Columbia Public Law & Legal Theory Working Papers

Document Type



Forthcoming Harvard Law Review, 2008.


In the current debate over the constitutionality of voter identification laws, both the Supreme Court and defenders of such laws have justified them, in part, as counteracting a widespread fear of voter fraud that leads citizens to disengage from the democracy. Because actual evidence of voter impersonation fraud is rare and difficult to come by if fraud is successful, reliance on public opinion as to the prevalence of fraud threatens to allow courts to evade the difficult task of balancing the actual constitutional risks involved. In this short Article we employ a unique survey to evaluate the causes and effects of public opinion regarding voter fraud. We find that perceptions of fraud have no relationship to an individual’s likelihood of turning out to vote. We also find that voters who were subject to stricter identification requirements believe fraud is just as widespread as do voters subject to less restrictive identification requirements.

Date of Authorship for this Version

February 2008