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The Push to Restrict Voting Rights Continues

As some states restrict voting rights, others expand them. The fight for the future of elections is on.

February 9, 2022
Voters waiting in line
Emily Haasch

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2021 was a bad year for voting rights.  Now state legis­latures have returned for their sessions. What will 2022 bring? Early returns are not encour­aging.

Today, the Bren­nan Center published our Voting Laws Roundup, which cata­logs legis­lat­ive assaults on voting rights around the coun­try. As of Janu­ary 14, legis­lat­ors in 27 states have intro­duced, pre-filed, or carried over 250 bills with restrict­ive provi­sions, compared to 75 such bills in 24 states a year ago. That’s a trip­ling of propos­als to restrict the vote.  The bills would reduce access to mail ballots, limit or elim­in­ate same-day voter regis­tra­tion, require proof of citizen­ship to vote or register, or make it harder for people with disab­il­it­ies to vote. 

Equally worry­ing, lawmakers also aim to increase partisan inter­fer­ence in elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion. Legis­lat­ors in thir­teen states have pre-filed or intro­duced 41 such bills. Some would give the state legis­lature the ulti­mate power to reject elec­tion results. Others threaten elec­tion offi­cials with civil or crim­inal penal­ties or place partisan actors in charge of vote count­ing. 

It can be easy to lose sight of another trend, this one posit­ive: in some states, lawmakers are seek­ing to widen access to the vote. Offi­cials in at least 32 states have intro­duced, pre-filed, or carried over 399 bills that expand voting access, compared to 286 such bills in 30 states a year ago. In some states, bad bills and good bills jostle for support.  

For decades, voting rights have been a national goal, their protec­tion a national oblig­a­tion. Now the Voting Rights Act is gutted by the Supreme Court, Congress cannot pass vital legis­la­tion, and the Big Lie has taken hold. Some states are moving back­wards, even as other states aim to build a modern and inclus­ive demo­cracy. If we do not want to find ourselves a house divided, we must renew the drive to make our demo­cracy a national mission again.