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Voting by Mail Under Threat, Again

Legislators in dozens of states want to erect new obstacles to voting.

February 23, 2021

Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed a slate of laws that would make it harder to vote by mail in Florida. He did so even though Floridians cast a record number of mail ballots in 2020, and even after touting that the state had “held the smoothest, most successful election of any state in the country.” The governor’s restrictive measures include plans to limit the use of secure ballot drop boxes and require voters to request a mail-in ballot every election year. 

“They seem to be addressing a problem that isn’t there,” Eliza Sweren-Becker told NBC News. It’s shameful. And unfortunately, common. DeSantis is just one of many state politicians participating in the anti-voting trends we’re seeing across the country.

In 2020, almost 160 million Americans voted, with the highest turnout rate in 120 years. Forty-six percent of those voters cast their ballots by mail. Now, in response, legislators in 33 states are responding by peddling the Big Lie of voter fraud and trying to make voting harder. Nearly half of the restrictive bills introduced this year seek to limit mail voting.

There is a fix: Congress must pass the For the People Act, which would expand access to voting by mail for federal elections.  The bill requires states to allow any eligible voter to vote by mail in federal elections and allows voters to request mail-in ballots online or by phone. Further, it would prohibit states from requiring voters casting a ballot by mail to provide identification aside from a signature. 

The For the People Act also includes good ballot security measures and provisions that would help ensure voters are notified of issues with their ballots. Finally, the legislation would require states to begin processing mail-in ballots at least 14 days before an election, establish tracking programs, and more.

Here’s some good news: It was announced Monday that every House Democrat has signed on to the bill, which is designated H.R. 1 in the House. It will be considered on the floor next week. Congress is rightfully moving quickly — our democracy urgently needs the bold, transformative reform the For the People Act promises as voting rights continue to be under assault across the country.