Policy Summary: In the aftermath of the 2020 election state legislatures from around the country have responded with a number of bills that relate to the ability to cast a ballot and other activities associated with voting, such as how ballots are returned and how voter rolls are updated. A significant number of these state bills raise red flags because they appear to be in response to former President Donald Trump’s assertion that the 2020 election was rife with fraud and were not as secure as they could have been. Despite statements from election officials, law enforcement and intelligence agencies that the 2020 elections were in fact secure and that no evidence of fraud was uncovered, state officials have still followed Trump’s lead and introduced a number of bills that purport to bring stability and security to future elections in their state.
The two most common ways that election improvements have been suggested are with restrictions on mail – in voting and in the registration and purge of voters from the state voter rolls. According to the Brennan Center for Justice one hundred sixty five bills have been filed in 2021 that restrict voting access and more than half of these bills deal with mail – in voting. And when it comes to adding and deleting voters to the state voting rolls, twelve states have introduced legislation that would expand the practice of how a voter can be removed from the state voter rolls. LEARN MORE
Policy Analysis: Despite the fact that many of these state bills are stated to help provide confidence and integrity in the conduct of elections, the bills have come under fire as being nothing more than voter suppression efforts by the Republican Party. Nearly all of the restrictive bills identified by the Brennan Center of Justice were filed by Republican state legislators.
An examination of the state bills associated with mail – in and absentee voting show a determined effort by states to make it much more difficult to vote in this manner. According to the Pew Research Center mail – in voting accounted for more than 50% of all ballots cast during the 2020 primary season which exceeded by half the totals from the 2016 and 2018 general election. This can likely be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet states are still seeking to restrict who is eligible to vote by mail by eliminating the “no – excuse” rule and even prohibiting who can assist a voter. Bills in Arizona have even gone so far as to require absentee ballots to be returned in person and to have their ballots notarized. These bills in Arizona and other states that introduce technical requirements are questionable because they do not address President Trump’s assertion that the 2020 election was riddled with fraud. With no evidence that there had been any fraudulent activity during the 2020 election these bills do nothing to address any structural flaws in the mail – in voting system in each state. What is being proposed are simply more barriers to casting a mail – ballot without any justification as to why these new barriers are needed. Eliminating “no – excuse” mail – in voting won’t stop a person from simply going to their polling booth as a last resort. And requiring absentee ballots to be returned in person would undermine the purpose of the absentee ballot in the first place – that people cannot always be in their precinct on election day, such as military and diplomatic personnel. The bills imposing new restrictions and limitations on absentee ballots and mail – in voting have no connection to Trump’s unfounded claims of fraud and will only serve to create more barriers to voting in each state.
The same problems plague the bills targeted at voter registration activities and purges of the voter rolls. Their connection to Trump’s claims of fraud are not rooted in fact and can therefore be considered unnecessary. Again, with no evidence of voter fraud or that an ineligible voter tried to cast a ballot, eliminating avenues to register to vote – such as the elimination of automatic voter registration bills in Arizona and New Jersey and the elimination of election day voter registration bills in five states – seem to address a problem that is non – existent. There are no instances of ineligible voters rushing to register to vote.
Instead, states like Georgia are introducing bills that seem to target minorities to prevent them from voting at all. And, in other cases, like in New Hampshire’s SB 31, procedures to purge voter rolls that have already been found to be in violation of the National Voter Registration Act are still being re – introduced. These unfocused and in many cases unnecessary bills only seem to be introduced to change the rules and give an advantage to Republican candidates. That may seem to be an unfounded accusation but a Republican election chair board was overheard remarking election changes are needed to give Republicans “a shot at winning.” If the only purpose is to give a political party an advantage then the bills being introduced in states should be given extra scrutiny to determine that they are in the best interest of the electorate and in having a safe and secure election and not introduced simply for a partisan advantage. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
- Brennan Center for Justice – non – profit group advocating for voting rights.
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – non – profit group’s webpage on voting rights.
This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.