Is Your State EXPANDING Or SUPPRESSING The Vote Today? It Depends If You Live In A Bastard Place!
There was never any significant voting fraud in the 2020 election, besides your garden-variety "Republicans voting for their dead moms" like they always do, but since Donald Trump got plenty of Republicans to believe his Big Lie that the election was stolen from him, state legislators around the country are introducing all kinds of crazy bills to make voting harder. They say it's all about restoring voters' faith in the integrity of elections, you see. A report from the Brennan Center for Justice outlines more than 106 bills filed in 28 states that would restrict voting. That's a huge increase over last year, which only saw 35 voting restriction bills filed in 15 states.
It doesn't seem to have occurred to Republicans that if they hadn't kept repeating their Great Leader's lies and his attempt to undermine the outcome of a legitimate election, that would do far more to restore faith in elections.
Happily, not all the voting-law news is terrible! The Brennan Center report also notes that, in response to the pandemic, an upsurge in voting by mail, and interest in reform following attempts to suppress voting, legislators in 35 states are also considering a whopping 406 bills that would expand access to voting. So not everything is terrible out there in the laboratories of democracy.
Remember, at this stage, these are all just bills that have been introduced; the Brennan Center report doesn't assess the likelihood of whether any will pass or not, so there's time to get people to oppose the awful ones and support the good ones.
War On Absentee Ballots
Donald Trump spent most of 2020 lying that voting by mail was inherently fraudulent (which it isn't, not that facts matter), so states are out to make it harder by restricting who can vote absentee, or by making it more difficult to obtain and/or return absentee ballots.
Three states are considering either limiting the reasons allowed for people to vote absentee, or getting rid of "no excuse" laws that let anyone request a mail ballot. Pennsylvania, which eliminated the requirement for voters to explain why they wanted to vote absentee in 2019, has seen three separate bills filed to go back to requiring an excuse. And Missouri is considering making it illegal for voters to request a mail ballot if they're worried about COVID-19.
Probably the most ambitious proposal comes from Arizona, where a single bill would
further restrict who can assist voters in collecting and delivering mail ballots (existing policy already limits such assistance to family and household members), add a voter ID requirement for turning in mail ballots in person, and require all mail ballots to be notarized (AZ HB 2369)
Notarized! Fuck me.
Four states have bills that would tighten requirements for witnessing absentee ballots. South Carolina, for instance, would require witnesses to include their driver's license or state voter ID number. And just to make returning absentee ballots harder, a Virginia bill would outlaw absentee ballot drop boxes, requiring all ballots go only to the voter registrar's office. Along similar lines, three states have bills that would require absentee ballots to be returned earlier than they are now. Our favorite has to be this brilliant idea:
In Iowa, where absentee ballots must be postmarked by the day before election day, a new bill would require voters to mail their ballots at least ten days before election day (IA SF 115)
Voter ID Crap
Even though studies keep showing in-person voter impersonation is largely a GOP urban legend, though we do, again, get a couple Republicans every year, there are a whole bunch of great proposals (18 bills in 10 states) to either add new voter ID requirements in states that didn't have 'em, to require photo ID for absentee voting, or to limit the kinds of ID allowed for people to vote. In New Hampshire, for instance, one bill would eliminate student photo IDs as valid identification. Another bill in that state really takes the cake, though: NH SB54 would require people to submit a photocopy of their photo ID when they apply for an absentee ballot, and again when they submit the absentee ballot.
On the bright side, there don't yet appear to be any proposals requiring people to submit digital video of themselves filling out their absentee ballots while holding their photo ID up to the camera at all times and reciting their Social Security numbers. Oh God, what have I done even suggesting it?
Register To Vote? Are You Kidding?
Lawmakers in both Mississippi and New York have introduced bills requiring people to provide proof of US citizenship to register to vote, which seems like an invitation to a costly lawsuit like the one that overturned a similar law in Kansas in 2018. A Texas proposal would prevent county clerks from handling voter registration, instead making all applications go through the secretary of state's office, which would have to send the applicant's info to the Department of Public Safety to check citizenship. Big problem: The DPS records aren't updated if someone gets a drivers license when they have a green card and later become a citizen, which is why Texas falsely claimed in 2019 it had "found" thousands of noncitizens on the voter rolls. Hey, why not bring back an already bad idea!
Seven bills around the country would get rid of same-day voter registration, too. Again, there's not a real problem with people fraudulently registering to vote on Election Day, but why not just make it harder anyway?
The Urge To Purge
Six states are looking at 13 bills that would expand purges of the voter rolls, often for the flimsiest of reasons. (Combine that with a ban on Election Day registration, and someone who's wrongly purged won't be able to vote at all, HA HA HA.) Mississippi wants to compare its voter rolls to other databases and then purge anyone who doesn't reply to a postcard by providing proof of US citizenship. And a bill in New Hampshire, which really seems to be urging the second option printed on its license plates,
would permit election administrators to remove voters from the rolls based on data provided by other states, a practice that federal courts have found violates the National Voter Registration Act.
But Wait! There Are Good Ideas, Too!
As a nice little reminder to always use primary sources, we'll note that we started looking at this story using a CNN report on the Brennan Center's findings, but the CNN piece only looked at the new restrictive proposals, and didn't mention any of the bills out there that would expand access to the ballot. So let's close with some good stuff!
Vote-by-mail and early voting: Eleven states are considering bills to expand absentee voting in all elections, by getting rid of the requirement to provide an excuse to get an absentee ballot. Twelve states have bills that would expand voters' ability to fix errors on absentee ballots so they can be counted. Eight states are looking at proposals to require absentee ballot drop boxes. Seven states would extend the dates by which ballots could be postmarked or received, and 13 states have bills that would allow election workers to start processing mail-in votes before Election Day, to ensure a speedier count.
In addition, 14 states have bills that would either introduce early voting or expand the amount of time and/or the number of early voting locations.
Voter registration: Thirteen states are considering bills to allow same-day registration and voting, and even cooler than that, 11 states have introduced bills for automatic voter registration. (Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia already have automatic registration. It should be all of 'em!)
Restoration of voting rights: Again, this is big. Fifteen states have bills that would either restore voting rights for people who have served their time, or at least would ease existing restrictions.
Legislators in Mississippi have introduced 12 such bills to expand or restore voting rights. The Sentencing Project estimates that Mississippi disenfranchises over 214,000 citizens living in the community — more than 54 percent of whom are Black — because of past convictions.
In addition, there's also the federal push to expand voting rights through this year's return in Congress of the "For the People" Act, as well as the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. With Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, those could conceivably pass, at least if we got rid of the filibuster. Hey, we should probably do that!
[Brennan Center / CNN]
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