Feb 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Dozens of states see new voter suppression proposals

Illustration of a large shoe about to step on a tiny voting booth.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

There are at least 165 proposals under consideration in 33 states so far this year to restrict future voting access by limiting mail-in ballots, implementing new voter ID requirements and slashing registration options.

Driving the news: As former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial begins over his role in the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection that sought to overturn President Biden's victory — fueled by baseless allegations of voter fraud — lawmakers in states with GOP majorities are pushing new ballot obstacles based on similar baseless allegations.

Why it matters: The 2020 election shattered minority turnout expectations, with Black and Asian-American voters in Georgia, and Latino and Navajo voters in Arizona, flipping traditionally red states to blue.

  • Advocates hoped that one silver lining of COVID-19 would be a permanent expansion of absentee and early voting options and other steps to make voting safer and more accessible to all voters.
  • Democrats in state legislatures are proposing bills to expand access to voting.
  • At the same time, a majority of states are seeing a proliferation of efforts to make voting more difficult. Trump's false claims of election fraud are fueling some of the arguments for these proposed obstacles.

The details: Three states at the tip of the spear are Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Georgia — states critical to Trump's loss in November and Democrats' takeover of the U.S. Senate last month. According to the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, Arizona leads the pack with 19 proposals, followed by Pennsylvania with 14 and Georgia with 11.

  • A South Carolina proposal would impose a signature matching requirement for absentee ballots.
  • A New Hampshire bill would allow anyone to observe polls “without obstruction.”
  • A Texas plan would strip voter registration authority from county clerks and require the Department of Public Safety to verify the citizenship of voters.

What they're saying: Arizona Republican state Rep. Kevin Payne is seeking to abolish the state's so-called permanent early voting list and require mail ballots to be notarized. “People don’t feel confident about the signature verification," he said.

  • Arizona state Rep. Athena Salman, a Democrat, said Republicans are "trying to stop eligible voters from voting because they don’t like the decisions voters are making."
  • One state official in Georgia, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said many of the bills are "grandstanding with the knowledge that cooler heads will prevail.”
  • The ACLU is expanding resources to its southern affiliates in anticipating of fights over voting rights. Executive director Anthony D. Romero told Axios the restrictions largely represent an effort "to exclude minority and people of color voters from the polls."
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