More States Expanded Voting Rights In 2021 Than Restricted Them

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Yet, at the federal level, it remains “incredibly important for Congress to take steps” to prevent widespread suffrage, a voting rights lawyer said.

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While many are run by the state Republican New restrictions on voting passed In view of the 2020 elections, the states in which Democrats Most or all levers of government did the opposite and increased voter access and voting rights.

In all, 25 states enacted legislation to expand voter access and voting rights, while 19 states enacted restrictive election laws. A review of state laws by the Brennan Center for Justice, a non-profit organization that supports voting rights. Some states expand voter access in certain ways while restricting it in other ways.

states that the president Joe Biden Won last year’s election, and where Democrats control the state legislature, accounted for the majority of broad voter access laws enacted in 2021. And, in large part, these states have since increased voter access and expanded voting rights successful implementation of policies during the COVID-19 pandemic, which were designed to make voting easier.

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Jasleen Singh, voting rights attorney at the Brennan Center, said: “There’s this emerging divide in America where it’s easier to vote, pass these more elaborate policies, and the opposite is true in places where it’s already hard to vote. ” ,

Nearly every state adopted emergency election rules in 2020 to ensure that people could vote without worrying about contracting the coronavirus in a crowded indoor space. These changes include allowing anyone to cast an absentee ballot, sending each voter an application to mail the ballot (or the ballot itself), opening drive-thru polling places, having absentee ballot drop boxes, easing voter registration rules, Including providing more time for ballots. to reach, and provide voters with, the opportunity to correct errors in their mailed ballots. Americans responded to these changes by voting at the highest rate in a century.

“The pandemic and the people’s use of these expanded policies, certainly signals to the state legislatures that when these methods are available to make voting easier, people are going to use them,” Singh said. “And they became incredibly popular.”

The expansion of mail voting was one of several policies used to enable safe voting during the COVID-19 pandemic, which many states made permanent or expanded into 2021.
John Bezmore via The Associated Press

That’s, at least, how it works in states with Democratic-run legislatures. In most Republican-run states, politicians have responded to Donald Trump’s lies about electoral fraud and New restrictions on voting implementedBanning voting practices popularly used, especially during the pandemic. This was especially true in states where Biden had made big gains in previous years, such as Arizona, Georgia and Texas.

Democratic control of the state legislature was the biggest predictor of whether a state expanded voter access in 2021. The expansion of voter access and voting rights only passed in one state (Rhode Island) where Democrats controlled both chambers of the legislature. This included states with Republican governors such as Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

Election laws passed in New York and Nevada also include policies that the Brennan Center classifies as restrictions on voting, respectively, shortening the window for mailing back ballot applications, and increasing the number of voters per region. Is. Kentucky and Louisiana, both with Republican legislatures and Democratic governors, also adopted election laws that mixed expansion of voter access with restrictions, as did entirely Republican-run Indiana and Oklahoma. North Dakota was the only state entirely Republican-run to expand voter access without limiting aspects of it.

Best practices adopted during the pandemic have led to changes in many of the biggest election legislation expanding the right to vote.

California, Nevada, and Vermont passed laws requiring each registered voter to go to all-mail elections (while retaining individual voting options) by sending a mail-in ballot. Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Virginia all enacted new laws to ease the rules for mail-in voting, whether by permanently adopting the excuseless absentee ballot, allowing each voter to mail-in. Makes it easy to vote by sending a ballot application or otherwise by mail. Additionally, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, a Democrat, extended a state order allowing voters to use the pandemic as an acceptable excuse to cast a mail-in absentee ballot.

California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey and Vermont either expanded the use of drop boxes for mail-in ballots or adopted the use of drop boxes permanently. Illinois adopted a policy allowing curbside voting permanently, and Vermont adopted drive-thru voting, both of which were successful pandemic innovations.

“Especially with the mail-in voting bill, it was a direct response [to the pandemic],” Joan Antoine, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, a nonprofit supporting voting rights legislation, said.

Previous attempts to pass legislation in Maryland to study mail voting failed because of protests in the state House of Delegates. But this year, both houses adopted legislation to allow mail-in voting and allow all registered voters to send ballot applications.

“It was interesting to see, because of the pandemic, the desire,” Antoine said. “It was almost as if everyone had a change of heart and realized it might work.”

Not every change can be made up to a pandemic. In some cases, states adopted policies that had long been sought by advocates of greater voter access and voting rights.

Connecticut, New York and Washington state all restored voting rights to people who had previously been imprisoned for felony charges. Maryland made it possible for people in prisons to vote pre-trial.

Delaware and Hawaii adopted automatic voter registration for the first time, while Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Nevada and New York all expanded their automated voter registration programs by including more government offices as sites to register voters.

Meanwhile, Virginia became First state to adopt State Level Voting Rights Act Create a process to review and prevent local jurisdictions from enforcing discriminatory voting practices.

Ballot drop boxes for mailed ballots were another popular policy that was made permanent in 2021 to states expanding voter access.
Ballot drop boxes for mailed ballots were another popular policy that was made permanent in 2021 to states expanding voter access.
Chandan Khanna via Getty Images

Many states have constitutions that contain all the election rules of the state. If legislators in one of these states want to change the election rules, they need to amend the state’s constitution. This can be a more difficult and time-consuming process than simply passing legislation, and has a higher chance of failure.

State legislatures are often required to pass resolutions favoring constitutional amendments in successive sessions. The ballot papers are then amended to make decisions about their adoption by voters.

In Connecticut, lawmakers passed resolutions in favor of amendments to allow early in-person voting and no-execute absentee voting. Since none of the resolutions received 75% of the vote in the state’s House of Representatives, they would have to be passed in successive sessions and then put on the ballot for voters. Early individual voting has already been passed in the last session, so it will appear on the ballot in 2022. The absentee ballot needs to be passed in another session before appearing on the ballot in 2024.

But in other states, barriers to passing constitutional amendments to make voting easier were much higher.

Every Republican in the Delaware House of Representatives voted against a constitutional amendment Authorizing absentee voting without excuse, refusing the two-thirds majority needed to pass it. The motion needed to be passed in two consecutive legislative sessions in order to be put on the ballot. Twelve Republicans previously voted for the same amendment in 2019, but now echo Trump’s lies about electoral fraud as his argument for voting numbers in 2021.

In New York, voters rejected constitutional amendments to allow same-day voter registration and absentee voting without excuse. Both amendments faced a multi-million dollar protest campaign funded by conservative billionaire Ronald Lauder, while Getting no support from the state Democratic Party, which till recently had not made any effort to expand voter outreach in the state. The amendments also performed poorly due to low turnout from Democrats in New York City and across the state.

These local failures help to highlight the national polarization of Republicans and Democrats over voting rights policies. For voting rights advocates, they also illustrate the importance of implementing federal reforms like those Currently Being Blocked by Republican Filbusters in the Senate, such as the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

“Because of this patchwork of policies that we are seeing, and the difficulty in making or not enacting certain laws, this is a moment where it is incredibly important for Congress to step up,” Singh said.

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