US States Weighed Variety of Voting Changes This Year
The vast majority of U.S. state voting legislation introduced this year was intended to expand voting access rather than impose restrictions.
Lawmakers in 45 states have been debating at least 647 bills that would expand voting access, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law. That’s compared with lawmakers in 28 states that have considered at least 82 bills to restrict access.
Voting-related topics under consideration in legislatures this year:
Most states and the District of Columbia allow registered voters to cast ballots in person before Election Day. This year, lawmakers in New York and Delaware approved early voting in those states. An effort to allow voters in Connecticut to decide whether that state should have early voting did not receive enough support from legislators to make the ballot next year.
Bills that would allow early voting or put the question before voters also were introduced in Maine, Minnesota, Missouri and Virginia.
No-excuse absentee voting
While absentee ballots are available in every state, 19 states require a voter to provide a reason for requesting one. This year, bills that would allow some form of no-excuse absentee voting or put the question before voters were introduced in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire and New York.
Same-day and Election Day registration
A growing number of states allow people to register and vote on the same day. In most cases, this applies to the early voting period as well as Election Day. Proof of residency and identification are required. States check whether a voter has already cast a ballot and have criminal penalties to deter fraud.
This year, bills that would allow for same-day voter registration or to put the question before voters were introduced in Connecticut, Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico and New York.
Automatic voter registration
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have started or have plans to implement a system in which residents are automatically registered to vote when they have contact with the state, typically at the state’s motor vehicle agency, unless they decline.
This year, bills that would implement automatic voter registration were introduced in Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska and New Hampshire.
Republicans in some states have expressed concerns about the actions of third-party voter registration groups, specifically pointing to the burden on local election officials when the groups submit forms that are incomplete or contain false information.
In Tennessee, this prompted a law signed recently by Republican Gov. Bill Lee that allows for fines for 100 or more incomplete registration forms in a year. A similar measure was introduced in Arizona.
Seven states have what has been described as “strict” photo identification requirements, meaning a voter must show a photo ID prior to casting a ballot. In those states, people who do not have an acceptable form of photo ID are directed to cast a provisional ballot that will be counted only if the voter visits the appropriate election office to present an ID within a certain number of days.
Ten other states have “non-strict” photo identification requirements. Depending on the state, some voters may have the option to sign an affidavit, or poll workers can vouch for their identity. In other cases, voters are directed to cast a provisional ballot, and then election officials determine eligibility without further action required of the voter.
Efforts to implement photo ID requirements in Montana and Wyoming failed this year.
Sources: National Conference of State Legislatures and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU’s School of Law