Most states expanded access to the vote – many dramatically – in response to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The result was an election that was by almost all accounts. Well managed and safe.
But as the National Conference of State Legislatures notes in Excellent news report From the voting procedures in 2020, most of these changes were temporary. As a result, while some states contemplate making it permanent, others want to undo.
Make no mistake: with legislative sessions beginning across the country, neither side wastes any time introducing bills. And according to the Brennan Center for Justice, they are doing so on a scale that may be unprecedented.
The Brennan Center has just released A comprehensive report Which indicates that both sides – those who want to restrict access to the vote and those who want to expand it – are billing at more than twice the rate they were a year ago. Brennan lists 106 restrictive measures, compared to 35 last February, and 406 extended measures, compared to 188 the previous year.
“After the historic turnout and increased mail vote in 2020, state lawmakers are pulling opposite trends,” the report says. The new legislation reflects an increase in bills to limit voter access, with a special focus on mail voting and voter ID. Other bills: pro-voter policies that were temporarily implemented last year
In particular, the Brennan Center says, lawmakers are focusing their attention on absentee voting (either to restrict it, to expand it, or to make it permanent). More than a quarter of the voting and election bills that were submitted deal with absentee voting.
Here’s a review of what the Brennan Center found:
Across the country, restrictive bills fall into four categories: restricting access to voting by mail, imposing stricter requirements on voter identity, limiting policies to increase voter registration, and enabling more aggressive voter list purges. Pennsylvania leads the nation in legislative proposals to restrict voting with 14 of them, followed by New Hampshire with 11 and Missouri with nine.
Some examples of restrictive measures:
- Three separate bills in Pennsylvania would repeal the vote by mail without excuse. (Voting by mail without excuse means that the voter does not need to provide a reason to vote by mail.)
- Arizona bill requires that all ballots be notarized by mail.
- Virginia’s bill bans the use of ballot boxes by requiring that all absentee ballots be returned to the Office of the Registrar General.
- The Mississippi bill bans the use of out-of-state driver’s licenses as a form of the idea, and the New Hampshire bill will not allow the use of student ID cards.
- Lawmakers in Mississippi and New York have introduced bills requiring voters to provide proof of citizenship to register to vote.
The expanded bills mainly focus on mail-order voting, early voting, voter registration, and restoring voting rights. New York tops the group with 56 expanded coins, but the report cites high numbers in some surprising states, such as Texas with 53 notes and Mississippi with 39.
- Twenty-seven bills in 11 states would abolish the excuse clause and allow all voters to vote by mail in all elections.
- Thirteen bills in eight states would allow or require local officials to provide ballot boxes by mail.
- Lawmakers in 14 states proposed early voting expansions, including 24 bills that would allow early first-time voting.
- Nineteen bills in 13 states would allow election officials to begin counting votes before Election Day.
- Lawmakers in Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas have introduced bills that would allow voters to register to vote online.
The differences between the two camps – restriction and expansion – are clearly partisan. In general, Republicans prefer the restriction and expansion of the Democrats.
However, whether the restriction really helps Republicans is open to debate. In Texas, for example, record voter turnout caused by looser restrictions was not hampered Republican success Election Day.
Each party has its own beliefs about the rules governing elections, but what does the general public think? a vote Posted by: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Some Clues.
One important finding: the ID card requirement to vote enjoys strong support across the political spectrum. However, the survey also found that most voters would not prefer new entries other than a photo ID. They strongly support absentee voting without excuses and ballot boxes.
It is not known how many of these bills, whether for restrictions or expansions, will pass. And if they did, then the rulers of those states would still have to sign it.
But as Elisa Sweren Baker, the attorney for the Brennan Center, said ABC NewsOne of the lessons learned from the recent elections is that expanded voter access is popular with a majority of voters on both sides of the political track.
If this is an important issue to you, it may be helpful for you to reach out to your elected representatives and let them know what you think.