Laws, Broad Political Forces Threaten 2018 Elections

June 5, 2018

New York, N.Y. - In the first federal election since the presidency turned on a razor-thin margin, voters in at least eight states will face more stringent voting laws than they did in the last federal election cycle, and voters in 23 states will face tougher rules on voting than they did in the 2010 wave election. In The State of Voting 2018, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law details threats to the ballot this fall. This wide-ranging analysis includes not just the laws but the political forces like gerrymandering and foreign interference that may impact Americans’ right to vote this November.

“This fall voters will continue to face new obstacles to voting, after a decade of laws restricting voting access and manipulating electoral maps,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Center’s democracy program and co-author of the report. “This will be the first time most voters head to the polls since a foreign government attempted to hack our election systems in 2016. Voters’ voices across the country will be muted because of extreme gerrymandering. And despite a wave of enthusiasm during this contentious election year, harsh voter ID laws and cutbacks to registration and early voting may depress voting among traditionally marginalized groups.”

The State of Voting 2018 presents new and updated data on the voting laws and court cases that could shape the midterm elections on November 6. The report finds that the decade-long battle over voting restrictions continues, while more than a dozen lawsuits challenging these restrictions are ongoing, and this year, state legislatures have introduced more bills to expand the vote than restrict it. Still, the report predicts the legal fights will likely remain at an impasse – with states implementing restrictions and courts blocking some of them in whole or in part – until there is a dramatic change of circumstances, like a Supreme Court decision or voter backlash.

The report elevates the Brennan Center’s research on vulnerabilities to the machines and computers that manage our country’s elections. Forty-three states will use voting machines that are no longer manufactured – and that officials in 33 states must replace their machines by 2020 and are unlikely to have the funds to do so. The analysis also provides a snapshot of the national fight over gerrymandering and previews how the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in a major partisan gerrymandering case could change the landscape for how legislative districts are drawn.

“In 2016, the direction of our country hinged on some 80,000 voters in three states. Every vote counts, which is why we want to identify the threats but also outline the ways we can fight back and protect the vote this fall,” said the Brennan Center’s Max Feldman, co-author of the report. “This isn’t about raising fears; it’s about giving Americans the facts about the ways their rights are under attack, and about what we can all do to defend them.”

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Stephen Fee at (646) 925-8720 or stephen.fee@nyu.edu.