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Analysis

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.