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Voting Rights Fared Well in Midterm Referendums

When given the chance, Americans usually try to make it easier to vote and reject restrictions.

Voters in six states had the opportunity to weigh in on voting access proposals on the ballot this November. The results show that when voter access is on the ballot, Americans choose to protect it more often than not.

Arizona and Michigan exemplify this trend. Since the 2020 election, both have been the site of voter suppression and election sabotage activity. Spurred by false claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election, each state’s legislature has passed restrictive voting legislation — with Arizona’s governor approving those bills and Michigan’s governor vetoing them. In the run-up to the 2022 midterms, election denier groups launched active poll watcher and poll worker recruitment in both states. And for the midterms, Arizona and Michigan each had election denier candidates up and down the ballot.

Yet when faced with the choice, voters in both states chose to uphold or expand access to the ballot box. Arizonans rejected efforts to restrict voter access through two new strict voter ID requirements, while voters in Michigan chose to make voting easier by enshrining several expansive voter access policies in their state constitution. Connecticut followed suit, with voters passing a ballot measure authorizing the state legislature to establish no-excuse early voting.

And while Nebraska and Ohio voters did approve ballot proposals that curtail voting access, they come with important caveats. The Ohio initiative — which explicitly prohibits people who aren’t citizens from voting — essentially maintains the status quo rather than taking the right to vote away from anyone.

The Nebraska initiative imposes a voter ID requirement, but unlike the failed Arizona proposal, it leaves the specifics up to the legislature. State voter ID laws vary in restrictiveness based on the forms of identification they require and the procedures available when a voter does not have an acceptable ID and a growing body of evidence demonstrates that strict voter ID laws disproportionately burden voters of color. Nebraska lawmakers there may see the ballot measure’s passage as an opportunity to impose a restrictive ID rule anyway, but hopefully they will heed the state constitution, which bars “hindrance or impediment to the right of a qualified voter to exercise the elective franchise.”

Overall, these results are in line with historic voter support for making it easier to vote when given the chance to directly weigh in, even in conservative-leaning states that tend to have more restrictive voting policies.

You can find detailed descriptions of each of the voter-access related ballot measures and how they fared here.