Dec 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

19 states enacted voting restrictions this year

Voters cast ballots at a polling location in Arlington during the Virginia governor election
Voters cast ballots at a polling location in Arlington, Va. Photo: Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images

States enacted 34 laws this year that add hurdles to the voting process — more than any other year for at least a decade, according to new data released by Brennan Center for Justice.

Why it matters: The surge in mostly Republican voting bills across 19 states follows former President Trump's unfounded claims of election fraud and the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

  • The report found that more than one-third of all restrictive voting laws in the U.S. enacted over the past decade were passed in 2021.

What we're watching: This trend is on track to continue. In four states, at least 13 bills restricting voting access that are being watched by the Brennan Center have been pre-filed for the next legislative session, and 88 bills introduced this year will carry over.

  • Meanwhile, legislators in five states have pre-filed bills launching or allowing partisan audits of the 2020 election or future elections. That follows efforts to conduct these reviews in multiple states this year — most notably in Arizona.
  • The center highlighted 11 states — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin — as having efforts underway that are most concerning to ballot access.

The big picture: State-level elections next year — including for governor, secretary of state and legislatures — could have a major impact on future voting rules.

  • State legislatures in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin passed restrictive voting bills that were ultimately vetoed by the states' governors. All three governors are up for re-election next year.

Go deeper: Of the 34 new laws enacted this year, seven would shorten the time voters have to apply for a mail ballot. There was increased use of mail-in ballots during the pandemic.

  • Some of the laws allow officials to remove a voter from a list to automatically receive mail-in ballots if they do not cast at least one mail-in vote over four years.
  • Others impose stricter voter ID requirements at the polls or stricter signature requirements to cast a mail ballot.
  • Three states enacted laws that would reduce the locations or hours that polling places are open.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that more than one-third of all restrictive voting laws in the U.S. enacted over the past decade were passed in 2021, not 2020.

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