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How New State Voting Laws Could Impact Voters

The Brennan Center examined six states’ new voting laws and their expected negative impact on voting.

Published: September 1, 2021

As new voting restric­tions become law across the coun­try — at least 18 states have enacted 30 such laws as of July 14 — a key ques­tion arises: How many voters are likely to find it harder to vote because of these changes?

It is impossible to predict the precise number of people who will not vote because of these laws. Many voters may find ways around the new obstacles. But accu­mu­lated barri­ers can dimin­ish voter turnout, espe­cially when those meas­ures partic­u­larly burden voters of color or low-propensity voters. In some cases, a single obstacle can impact hundreds of thou­sands of voters, while in other instances multiple policies compound, caus­ing voting access to suffer death by a thou­sand cuts.

That matters, both for Amer­ic­ans’ abil­ity to exer­cise their free­dom to vote and for the outcomes of elec­tions, which can be won by the slight­est margin. Fewer than 13,000 votes swung both Arizona and Geor­gia in last year’s pres­id­en­tial elec­tion, for example. The sheer number of restrict­ive provi­sions in the 30 new laws shed light on just how diffi­cult it will be to over­come or organ­ize around these restric­tions. What’s more, these new laws pile on top of other barri­ers erec­ted in recent years, like the pay-to-vote system that Flor­ida enacted in 2019, which denies eligib­il­ity to more than 700,000 Flor­idi­ans because of court debts.

The voting reforms in the For the People Act, together with those in the John Lewis Voting Rights Advance­ment Act, would blunt the impact of many of the new restrict­ive laws and protect Amer­ic­ans’ access to the vote.

Below are just some of 2021’s new restric­tions (plus propos­als await­ing the governor’s signa­ture in Texas) and context for under­stand­ing their expec­ted impact.


Arizona

MARGIN OF VICTORY: In Arizona, the 2020 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion was decided by 10,457 votes, the closest margin in the coun­try. foot­note1_l07t­s69 1 Office of the Arizona Secret­ary of State, “2020 General Elec­tion,” last updated Novem­ber 24, 2020, https://results.arizona.vote/#/featured/18/0.

THE LAW: This year, Arizona legis­lat­ors got rid of the state’s “perman­ent early voter list” (PEVL) through S.B. 1485. foot­note2_at17t9y 2 Ariz. S.B. 1485 (2021). Voters on the PEVL auto­mat­ic­ally received a mail ballot for every elec­tion in which they were eligible to vote. Now, voters on the new “active early voter list” who do not cast an early ballot in two consec­ut­ive elec­tion cycles will be removed from the list unless they sign and mail back a noti­fic­a­tion sent to them (removals will start in 2025). foot­note3_is6qf2a 3 Ariz. S.B. 1485. Many voters who have come to rely on receiv­ing a mail ballot will not get one and there­fore may not vote. Tribal and rural voters who real­ize too late that they were removed from the early voting list may not have trans­port­a­tion to the polls on Elec­tion Day.

POTEN­TIAL VOTER IMPACT: The Arizona secret­ary of state concluded that, due to S.B. 1485, as many as 200,000 voters may be purged from the early voting list, foot­note4_e8czuub 4 Jeremy Duda, “GOP Bill that Could Remove 200k People from the Perman­ent Early Voting List Clears the House,” Arizona Mirror, April 21, 2021, https://www.azmir­ror.com/2021/04/21/gop-bill-remov­ing-200k-people-from-the-perman­ent-early-voting-list-clears-the-house/. which included 3.2 million Arizon­ans at the begin­ning of 2021. foot­note5_piqjthk 5 Andrew Oxford, “Repub­lic­ans in Arizona Legis­lature Advance Bill to Remove Some from Early Voter List,” AZCent­ral, Janu­ary 21, 2021, https://www.azcent­ral.com/story/news/polit­ics/legis­lature/2021/01/21/bill-remove-some-perman­ent-early-voting-list-arizona-advances/6665628002/.


Geor­gia

MARGIN OF VICTORY: The 2020 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion was decided by 11,779 votes in Geor­gia, the second-closest margin in the coun­try. foot­note6_wk2s0m9 6 Office of the Geor­gia Secret­ary of State, “2020 Pres­id­en­tial Recount Results,” last updated Decem­ber 7, 2020, https://results.enr.clar­ityelec­tions.com/GA/107231/web.264614/#/summary (here­in­after “Geor­gia Recount Results”).

THE LAW: The state’s new omni­bus law, S.B. 202, contains several provi­sions that make voting harder. Among them are the follow­ing:

Drop boxes

S.B. 202 restricts how many drop boxes a county can provide by limit­ing the permiss­ible number to the lower of the follow­ing two figures: the number of early voting loca­tions in the county or the number of times the county’s voting popu­la­tion can be divided by 100,000. foot­note7_2261rg1 7 GA S.B. 202, Sec. 26 (2021). Voters who relied on this method and are no longer able to access a drop box may either not vote or have to return their ballots by mail (which is not always reli­able and requires earlier drop-off to ensure ballots arrive on time).

POTEN­TIAL VOTER IMPACT: The four major metro­pol­itan counties surround­ing Atlanta — Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwin­nett — will be limited to an estim­ated 23 drop boxes total. foot­note8_cgxclwt 8 Mark Niesse et al., “Drop Box Use Heavy in Demo­cratic Areas Before Geor­gia Voting Law,” Atlanta Journal-Consti­tu­tion, July 12, 2021, https://www.ajc.com/polit­ics/drop-box-use-soared-in-demo­cratic-areas-before-geor­gia-voting-law/N4ZT­GHL­WD5BRBOUKBHTUCF­V­OEU/. By contrast, there were 111 drop boxes in those four counties last year. foot­note9_oq7mony 9 Niesse, “Drop Box Use Heavy.”. In those four counties, over 305,000 absentee voters (roughly 56 percent of absentee voters there) used drop boxes in the 2020 elec­tion. foot­note10_149x­ox2 10 Niesse, “Drop Box Use Heavy.”.

ID require­ment to vote absentee

S.B. 202 requires voters apply­ing for an absentee ballot to include a driver’s license or state iden­ti­fic­a­tion number. foot­note11_32rl85x 11 Ga. S.B. 202, Sec. 25 (2021). Voters who do not have those forms of ID are required to provide a copy of an identi­fy­ing docu­ment (like a util­ity bill or bank state­ment) with their absentee ballot applic­a­tion. foot­note12_fjl49yx 12 Ga. S.B. 202, Sec. 25. This new, harsher ID require­ment will dispro­por­tion­ately burden Black voters.

POTEN­TIAL VOTER IMPACT: Over 272,000 registered Geor­gia voters (about 3.5 percent of the state’s regis­trants) do not have a driver’s license or state ID on file with elec­tion offi­cials. foot­note13_ymoi6dz 13 Mark Niesse, “Geor­gia Absentee ID Law Has Outsized Impact on Black and Metro Voters,” Atlanta Journal-Consti­tu­tion, June 1, 2021, https://www.ajc.com/polit­ics/geor­gia-absentee-id-law-has-outsized-impact-on-black-and-metro-voters/ZFAZVG46EZEL5MUICUQI6SHQ44/. Black Geor­gi­ans make up 30 percent of registered voters in the state but 56 percent of voters without ID inform­a­tion on record. foot­note14_860zm33 14 Niesse, “Geor­gia Absentee ID Law Has Outsized Impact.”

Limits on send­ing mail ballot applic­a­tions

S.B. 202 bans govern­ment offi­cials from send­ing out unso­li­cited absentee ballot applic­a­tions. foot­note15_0wa8y6i 15 Ga. S.B. 202, Sec. 25. It also prohib­its third-party organ­iz­a­tions from send­ing applic­a­tions with any inform­a­tion prefilled. foot­note16_n00m­mew 16 Ga. S.B. 202, Sec. 25.

POTEN­TIAL VOTER IMPACT: During the 2020 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion, third-party organ­iz­a­tions assert that they distrib­uted over 6.9 million absentee ballot request forms in Geor­gia, prefilled with voter’s names and addresses. foot­note17_wnkq54y 17 VoteAm­er­ica v. Raffen­sper­ger, 1:21-cv-01390-JPB, (N.D. Ga., Apr. 7, 2021), Complaint ¶ 28, avail­able at https://stor­age.court­l­istener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.gand.288858/gov.uscourts.gand.288858.1.0.pdf; and Mark Niesse, “Groups Mass Mail Absentee Ballot Applic­a­tions to Geor­gia Voters,” Atlanta Journal-Consti­tu­tion, August 25, 2020, https://www.ajc.com/polit­ics/groups-mass-mail-absentee-ballot-applic­a­tions-to-geor­gia-voters/BCG7G­B7UD­VAVRGM2MG­P­M­W73TGY/. More than 1.3 million Geor­gia voters cast absentee ballots in the 2020 general elec­tion. foot­note18_zc6xk11 18 Geor­gia Recount Results (Contest Details, Vote Types).

Mobile voting centers

S.B. 202 bans mobile voting centers except when the governor declares a state of emer­gency. foot­note19_wtyuqih 19 Ga. S.B. 202, Sec. 20.

POTEN­TIAL VOTER IMPACT: During the 2020 elec­tion, two polling vehicles crossed Fulton County during early voting. foot­note20_jse4lkg 20 Nick Corosan­iti and Reid J. Epstein, “What Geor­gi­a’s Voting Law Really Does,” New York Times, April 2, 2021, updated August 18, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/02/us/polit­ics/geor­gia-voting-law-annot­ated.html. In the 2020 general elec­tion, more than 11,200 people in the county voted at one of them, nearly equal to the number of decid­ing votes statewide in the pres­id­en­tial elec­tion. foot­note21_bwi61wj 21 Corosan­iti and Epstein, “What Geor­gi­a’s Voting Law Really Does.”

Out-of-precinct ballots

S.B. 202 prohib­its voters from being able to cast out-of-precinct provi­sional ballots before 5:00 p.m. on Elec­tion Day. foot­note22_6z1ju6j 22 Ga. S.B. 202, Sec. 34. That means voters who show up at the wrong precinct before 5:00 pm won’t be able to vote there, even if they are eligible to cast ballots in races for U.S. senator or pres­id­ent, for example.

POTEN­TIAL VOTER IMPACT: In the 2020 general elec­tion, elec­tion work­ers coun­ted 3,357 out-of-precinct provi­sional ballots in Geor­gia. foot­note23_i3zdzlh 23 Mark Niesse, “Geor­gia Voting Law Disqual­i­fies Ballots Cast in the Wrong Precinct,” Atlanta Journal-Consti­tu­tion, April 30, 2021, https://www.ajc.com/polit­ics/geor­gia-voting-law-disqual­i­fies-ballots-cast-in-the-wrong-precinct/N4I437PT4RA47L­G2MA3YS32WEA/.


Flor­ida

MARGIN OF VICTORY: Flor­id­a’s U.S. Senate elec­tion in 2018 was decided by 10,033 votes. foot­note24_bddqmc2 24 Flor­ida Depart­ment of State Divi­sion of Elec­tions, “Novem­ber 6, 2018 General Elec­tion, Offi­cial Results,” accessed July 28, 2021, https://results.elec­tions.myflor­ida.com/. This was one of many very close elec­tions in the state over the past two decades (the pres­id­en­tial elec­tion was decided by just 537 votes in 2000). The 2020 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion was not as close — it was decided by 371,686 votes. foot­note25_gaay­bec 25 Flor­ida Depart­ment of State Divi­sion of Elec­tions, “Novem­ber 3, 2020 General Elec­tion, Offi­cial Results,” accessed July 30, 2021, https://results.elec­tions.myflor­ida.com/.

THE LAW: Among the restric­tions in Flor­id­a’s omni­bus law, S.B. 90, is a limit­a­tion on ballot drop box loca­tions, which may only be in the main office and perman­ent branch offices of county super­visors of elec­tions and at early voting sites (where they will be limited to use during early voting hours only). foot­note26_2no8d5z 26 Fla. S.B. 90, Sec. 28 (2021). In other words, S.B. 90 effect­ively limits almost all drop box avail­ab­il­ity to 8 to 12 hours a day. foot­note27_b2rjti7 27 “Early Voting,” Flor­ida Divi­sion of Elec­tions, accessed July 25, 2021, https://dos.myflor­ida.com/elec­tions/for-voters/voting/early-voting/; and Fla. Stat. § 101.657(1)(d). Shift-work­ers and other voters who relied on early morn­ing and night­time hours to submit their ballots will no longer be able to do so.

POTEN­TIAL VOTER IMPACT: During the 2020 general elec­tion, at least 51 of Flor­id­a’s 67 counties offered at least one drop box that was avail­able 24/7. foot­note28_tq10pw9 28 Jose Vasquez and Daniel A. Smith, “All Counties Should Offer Secure, 24/7 Drop Boxes for Mail Ballots,” Tampa Bay Times, Octo­ber 12, 2020, https://www.tampabay.com/opin­ion/2020/10/12/all-counties-should-offer-secure-247-drop-boxes-for-mail-ballots-column/. In the 2020 general elec­tion, 1.5 million Flor­ida voters used a drop box to vote, making up more than 10 percent of voters who cast ballots and more than a quarter of those who did so by mail. foot­note29_l1ht­mct 29 Flor­ida Super­visors of Elec­tions State­ment on PCB-PIE-21–05, March 22, 2021, https://www.myflor­id­aelec­tions.com/portals/fsase/Docu­ments/Public%20Policy/FSE_State­ment_032221.pdf; and John Kennedy, “Elec­tions Bill that Bans Ballot Drop Boxes and Makes Other Changes Advances in Flor­ida Senate,” Sara­sota Herald-Tribune, March 10, 2021, https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/news/polit­ics/state/2021/03/10/flor­ida-legis­lature-moving-forward-contro­ver­sial-mail-ballot-drop-box-changes/6936429002/. Many more Black voters opted to vote by mail in Flor­ida in 2020 than in 2016. In the 2016 general elec­tion, 20 percent of Black voters cast their ballot by mail; in 2020, that doubled to 40 percent. foot­note30_wrjlabc 30 Calcu­lated based on data from the Flor­ida registered voter file from Novem­ber 2017 and July 2021.


Iowa

MARGIN OF VICTORY: In 2020, 138,611 votes decided the pres­id­en­tial race in Iowa and 110,138 votes decided its U.S. Senate race. foot­note31_jrtxfex 31 Office of the Iowa Secret­ary of State, “2020 Elec­tion Canvass Summary,” Novem­ber 30, 2020, https://sos.iowa.gov/elec­tions/pdf/2020/general/canvsum­mary.pdf. House District 2 was decided by just 6 votes. foot­note32_lntxkqx 32 Office of the Iowa Secret­ary of State, “2020 Elec­tion Canvass Summary.”.

THE LAW: Iowa’s omni­bus voting law, S.F. 413, includes multiple provi­sions that make it harder to vote. They include the follow­ing:

Voter purges

S.F. 413 requires voters to be marked as “inact­ive” if they did not vote in the most recent general elec­tion. foot­note33_7af3is6 33 Iowa S.F. 413, Sec. 25 (2021). Inact­ive voters will then be removed from the rolls if they do not vote in two success­ive general elec­tion cycles. foot­note34_62d6oq6 34 Iowa Code § 48A.30(1)(g). But inactiv­ity is a poor proxy for ineligib­il­ity — a voter may simply decide not to vote. foot­note35_keso6sn 35 For example, in July 2017, Geor­gia canceled the regis­tra­tions of 107,000 people under the state’s “use it or lose it” purge policy (among more than half a million Geor­gia voters purged at the time). See Johnny Kauff­man, “6 Takeaways from Geor­gi­a’s ‘Use It Or Lose It’ Voter Purge Invest­ig­a­tion,” NPR, Octo­ber 22, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/10/22/659591998/6-takeaways-from-geor­gias-use-it-or-lose-it-voter-purge-invest­ig­a­tion. After 2017, 87,000 purged voters re-registered in Geor­gia, indic­at­ing they were still eligible in the state. See Mark Niesse, “Many Eligible Geor­gia Voters Were Canceled in Nation’s Largest Purge,” Atlanta Journal-Consti­tu­tion, March 12, 2020, https://www.ajc.com/news/state—re­gional-govt—­polit­ics/many-eligible-geor­gia-voters-were-canceled-nation-largest-purge/jRlixH­pVs0I9wVQY­dDjxvM/ What’s more, Iowa’s purge prac­tices have been error-prone in the past. foot­note36_2k011ll 36 Jason Clay­worth, “‘This Is Wrong’: Iowa’s Flawed Felon List Has Been Disqual­i­fy­ing Legit­im­ate Voters for Years,” Des Moines Register, Janu­ary 13, 2019, updated Janu­ary 23, 2020, https://www.desmoines­reg­ister.com/story/news/invest­ig­a­tions/2019/01/13/iowa-elec­tion-felon-voting-rights-ban-voters-polling-place-how-register-vote-state-rejec­ted-votes-ia/2359082002/.

POTEN­TIAL VOTER IMPACT: As of April 2021, 294,148 Iowa voters had been moved to inact­ive status because they did not vote in the 2020 general elec­tion. foot­note37_3f0n­li1 37 Ryan J. Foley, “Iowa Moves 294,000 Registered Voters to ‘Inact­ive’ Status,” Asso­ci­ated Press, April 26, 2021, https://abcnews.go.com/Polit­ics/wireStory/iowa-moves-294000-registered-voters-inact­ive-status-77323150.

Send­ing mail ballot applic­a­tions

S.F. 413 prohib­its the secret­ary of state from send­ing absentee ballot applic­a­tions to voters unless they request one. foot­note38_az54xpx 38 Iowa S.F. 413, Sec. 43. In advance of the 2020 general elec­tion, Secret­ary of State Paul D. Pate sent out about 2 million such applic­a­tions to every active, registered voter in Iowa. foot­note39_5eg7dbw 39 Office of the Iowa Secret­ary of State,Press Release: Secret­ary Pate Send­ing Absentee Ballot Request Forms Statewide This Week­end,” Septem­ber 4, 2021, https://sos.iowa.gov/news/2020_09_04.html; and Stephen Gruber-Miller, “Iowa Secret­ary of State Will Mail Ballot Request Forms to All Voters Before Fall Elec­tion,” Des Moines Register, July 17, 2020, https://www.desmoines­reg­ister.com/story/news/polit­ics/2020/07/17/iowa-secret­ary-state-paul-pate-mail-absentee-ballot-request-form-registered-voters-covid-19-pandemic/5458727002/.

POTEN­TIAL VOTER IMPACT: More than 1 million Iowa voters (nearly 60 percent of turnout) cast absentee ballots (either by mail or in person) in the 2020 general elec­tion. foot­note40_gs0y2gn 40 Office of the Iowa Secret­ary of State, “2020 General Elec­tion Voter Turnout Report,” accessed August 31, 2021, https://sos.iowa.gov/elec­tions/pdf/2020/general/turnout.pdf. This was more than a 50 percent increase over the 647,000 Iowa voters who used absentee ballots in the 2016 general elec­tions. foot­note41_zo1y­o65 41 Office of the Iowa Secret­ary of State, “2016 General Elec­tion Voter Turnout Report,” accessed August 31, 2021, https://sos.iowa.gov/elec­tions/pdf/2016/general/turnout.pdf.

Absentee ballot receipt dead­line

S.F. 413 requires that absentee ballots be received by the close of polls on Elec­tion Day (8:00 p.m.). foot­note42_0yd9awu 42 Iowa S.F. 413, Sec. 54; Iowa Code § 49.73(2)(a) (setting 8:00 p.m. as the time when polling places must close on Elec­tion Day). Iowa law previ­ously permit­ted ballots to arrive by noon on the Monday follow­ing Elec­tion Day if post­marked by the day prior to Elec­tion Day. foot­note43_71ik­lea 43 Iowa S.F. 413, Sec. 54.

POTEN­TIAL VOTER IMPACT: Iowa Senate Demo­crats estim­ate that, had this policy been in place for the 2020 general elec­tion, 6,500 ballots would not have been coun­ted. foot­note44_jhfg­shh 44 Iowa Senate Demo­crats, “State Govern­ment Commit­tee – All Bill Summary 2020,” June 23, 2021, https://www.senate.iowa.gov/demo­crats/2021/06/state-govern­ment-commit­tee-all-bill-summary-2020/.


Montana

MARGIN OF VICTORY: Montana’s 2018 U.S. Senate elec­tion was decided by 17,913 votes. foot­note45_nk2aris 45 Office of the Montana Secret­ary of State, “2018 Statewide General Elec­tion Canvass,” accessed July 28, 2021, https://sosmt.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018­Gen­er­alRe­portStateCan­vass.pdf. The 2020 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion there was decided by 98,816 votes. foot­note46_f9dd­f85 46 Office of the Montana Secret­ary of State, “2020 Statewide General Elec­tion Canvass,” accessed July 30, 2021, https://sosmt.gov/wp-content/uploads/State_Canvass_Report.pdf.

THE LAWS: The state has enacted several laws this year that could make it harder for resid­ents to parti­cip­ate in elec­tions. They include the follow­ing:

Elec­tion Day regis­tra­tion

H.B. 176 elim­in­ates Elec­tion Day regis­tra­tion in Montana. foot­note47_19ifgld 47 Mont. H.B. 176, Sec. 2 (2021).

POTEN­TIAL VOTER IMPACT: In 2018, 8,053 voters registered to vote on Elec­tion Day. foot­note48_mqqt­g0g 48 Sam Wilson, “Gov Signs Bills Ending Elec­tion Day Regis­tra­tion, Tight­en­ing Voter ID Restric­tions,” Inde­pend­ent Record (Helena, MT), April 19, 2021, https://helenair.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-polit­ics/gov-signs-bills-ending-elec­tion-day-regis­tra­tion-tight­en­ing-voter-id-restric­tions/article_6e865885–2ce2–5690–813b-ba6cee4e3cba.html.

Mail ballot assist­ance

H.B. 530 prohib­its any person who distrib­utes, orders, collects, or returns another person’s ballot from receiv­ing any pecu­ni­ary bene­fit. foot­note49_k7z8z5l 49 Mont. H.B. 530, Sec. 2 (2021). This policy dispro­por­tion­ately burdens Native Amer­ican voters, who often have limited access to polling places and rely on paid ballot assist­ance to return their ballots.

POTEN­TIAL VOTER IMPACT: The Black­feet reser­va­tion, roughly the size of Delaware, has just four ballot drop-off loca­tions. foot­note50_hgscmya 50 Maggie Astor, “How G.O.P.-Backed Laws in Montana Could Hurt Native Amer­ican Voting,” New York Times, July 6, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/06/us/polit­ics/montana-native-amer­ic­ans-voting-rights.html. The Black­feet Nation has 17,321 enrolled members. foot­note51_i8hqr6s 51 Black­feet Nation (website), accessed July 29, 2021, https://black­feet­na­tion.com/. For all seven tribal nations in Montana, getting to county elec­tion offices requires 18 to 176 miles of round-trip travel. foot­note52_n1rorm4 52 West­ern Native Voice, “Barri­ers to Elec­tion Services and Voting for Native Amer­ic­ans,” Novem­ber 2019, https://leg.mt.gov/content/Commit­tees/Interim/2019–2020/State-Tribal-Rela­tions/Meet­ings/Novem­ber-2019/11_11_2019%20State%20Tribal%20Re­la­tions%20Com­mit­tee%20Present­a­tion%20.pdf. Native Amer­ic­ans make up 6.7 percent of Montana’s popu­la­tion or approx­im­ately 71,600 people. foot­note53_n7zs15q 53 U.S. Census Bureau, “Quick­Facts: Montana,” accessed July 29, 2021, https://www.census.gov/quick­facts/fact/table/MT#.


Texas

MARGIN OF VICTORY: The margin of victory in Texas’s 2018 U.S. Senate race was 214,921 voters. foot­note54_yuhelj8 54 Office of the Texas Secret­ary of State, “Race Summary Report, 2018 General Elec­tion,” accessed August 24, 2021, https://elec­tions.sos.state.tx.us/elchist331_state.htm. And over the last decade, several Texas congres­sional races have been decided by close margins, includ­ing the 2018 race for House District 23, decided by 926 votes, and the 2020 race for House District 24, decided by 4,584 votes. foot­note55_semja3a 55 Office of the Texas Secret­ary of State, “Race Summary Report, 2018 General Elec­tion”; and Office of the Texas Secret­ary of State, “Texas Elec­tion Results,” accessed July 28, 2021, https://results.texas-elec­tion.com/races. The 2020 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion was not as close: 631,221 voters decided the results. foot­note56_egazlpm 56 Office of the Texas Secret­ary of State, “Texas Elec­tion Results.”

PENDING LEGIS­LA­TION: The Texas Legis­lature failed to pass the two omni­bus voting restric­tion bills intro­duced during its regu­lar 2021 session after Demo­crats walked out, depriving the House of a quorum. foot­note57_bggbxf1 57 Nick Corasaniti, “Texas Demo­crats Stymie G.O.P. Voting Bill, for Now,” New York Times, May 31, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/31/us/polit­ics/texas-voting-bill.html. But in two success­ive 30-day special sessions, Repub­lican lawmakers rein­tro­duced many of the same restrict­ive voting meas­ures, includ­ing in omni­bus bill S.B. 1. In response, House Demo­crats walked out again to break quorum during the first special session, but the Texas Legis­lature passed S.B. 1 during the second one. At the time of public­a­tion, S.B. 1 is await­ing the governor’s signa­ture; he has prom­ised to sign it into law. Restric­tions in S.B. 1 include the follow­ing:

Drive-through and 24-hour voting bans

S.B. 1 prohib­its drive-through voting loca­tions and 24-hour voting at early voting loca­tions, which were made avail­able in Harris County last year during the pandemic. foot­note58_h8wai23 58 S.B. 1, 87th Leg., 2nd Spec. Sess. (Tex. 2021).

POTEN­TIAL VOTER IMPACT IF ENACTED: In the 2020 general elec­tion, about 127,000 Harris County voters made use of drive-through polling places during the general elec­tion. foot­note59_4z4j6g9 59 Jolie McCul­lough, “Nearly 127,000 Harris County Drive-Thru Votes Appear Safe After Federal Judge Rejects GOP-Led Texas Lawsuit,” Texas Tribune, Novem­ber 2, 2020, updated Novem­ber 3, 2020, https://www.texastribune.org/2020/11/02/texas-drive-thru-votes-harris-county/. Harris County also permit­ted 24-hour voting over two days during the early voting period. foot­note60_t8om­n81 60 Juan A. Lozano, “Hous­ton Looks to Boost Turnout by Offer­ing 24-Hour Voting,” Asso­ci­ated Press, Octo­ber 30, 2020, https://apnews.com/article/elec­tion-2020-polit­ics-hous­ton-voting-texas-351f6e1c4820d8f2b2e­b7468a725c­ce0. During that period, 15,943 voters cast early ballots. foot­note61_yaiay85 61 Harris County Elec­tion Divi­sion, “Daily Record of Early Voting – Novem­ber 3, 2020 and Special Elec­tions,” https://web.archive.org/web/20201105224744/https:/www.harris­votes.com/Docs/Uploads/EVPA_unof­fi­cial.pdf (archived).

One-quarter of Black Texans and nearly one-quarter of Asian Texans live in Harris County. By contrast, Harris County is home to just 12 percent of white non-Hispanic Texans. foot­note62_t16k31r 62 U.S. Census Bureau, “Amer­ican Community Survey 2015–2019 5-Year Estim­ates (2019),” avail­able at https://data.census.gov/cedsci/.

ID require­ment to vote absentee

S.B. 1 requires voters apply­ing for an absentee ballot to include their driver’s license/state iden­ti­fic­a­tion number or, if they do not have one, the last four digits of their Social Secur­ity number. foot­note63_nl2k­d2w 63 S.B. 1, 87th Leg., 2nd Spec. Sess. (Tex. 2021). Voters who have neither must say so.

POTEN­TIAL VOTER IMPACT IF ENACTED: About 11 percent of Texas voters, or 1.9 million people, have only one of the two numbers (state ID or Social Secur­ity) on file. foot­note64_dda1kr2 64 Jessica Huse­man, “The Texas Elec­tion Bill Contains a New Obstacle to Voting that Almost No One Is Talk­ing About,” Texas Monthly, July 26, 2021, https://www.texas­monthly.com/news-polit­ics/texas-elec­tion-bill-contains-new-voting-obstacle/.

Chris Davis, the elec­tions admin­is­trator for Willi­am­son County, has test­i­fied that most voters with only one number on file would not remem­ber which number they had submit­ted, often many years earlier, and have to guess. “You have a 50 percent chance of the voter guess­ing wrong,” he said. foot­note65_1quaqt0 65 Huse­man, “The Texas Elec­tion Bill Contains a New Obstacle.” Defect­ive applic­a­tions are rejec­ted; foot­note66_5fs67xc 66 Tex. Elec. Code §§ 86.001(c), 86.008. voters would then have to resub­mit their mail ballot applic­a­tion with the correct inform­a­tion.

If Texas voters continue to vote absentee in the same numbers as last year but half guess incor­rectly on their absentee ballot applic­a­tion as to which ID number is on file, 104,500 voters will have their applic­a­tions rejec­ted. foot­note67_pm6yjpl 67 Huse­man, “The Texas Elec­tion Bill Contains a New Obstacle.”

End Notes