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The Impact of Restrictive Voting Legislation

Reports from across the nation reveal that new legislation will disproportionately suppress voters from marginalized groups.

Published: April 5, 2022

State lawmakers have introduced and passed an unprecedented wave of restrictive voting legislation since the 2020 election. This torrent has the potential to cause grievous harm at the polls. Similar to the conclusions reached in academic studies, recent news articles and reports written by voting rights experts as part of relevant litigation show how new restrictive voting laws make it disproportionately harder for voters of color and voters with disabilities to cast their ballots.

Since the beginning of 2021, 49 states introduced bills and 14 enacted laws making it harder to vote by mail 

  • The Texas Tribune detailed the extent to which the state’s enactment of TX S.B. 1 disenfranchised voters who tried to vote by mail in the March 2022 primary election. Due to the law’s restrictive ID requirement provision, in which voters need to provide their driver’s license number or partial Social Security number that matches the county’s own files, thousands of mail-in ballots were rejected at rates between 6 percent and 22 percent in Texas’s largest counties. These ballot rejection rates are vastly higher than the less than 1 percent rejection rate seen in Texas during the 2020 election. Harris County, the state’s most populous county, rejected approximately 19 percent of mail-in ballots received on time, a considerable increase from the 2018 primary’s rate of only 0.3 percent.
     
  • Similarly, the Associated Press found that as of March 9, roughly 27,000 mail-in ballots cast across the state for the March primary were flagged for rejection, largely owing to the confusion caused by the voter ID requirements in TX S.B. 1.
     
  • As part of litigation footnote1_lgsyrp1 1 League of Women Voters of Florida v. Lee, 4:21-cv-00186-MW-MAF (N.D. Fla. Jan. 24, 2022), Dkt. 458–1. against FL S.B. 90, Dr. Michael C. Herron, an expert in election administration at Dartmouth College, analyzed the rates of drop box usage amongst different groups in Florida during the 2020 general election. His analysis revealed that FL S.B. 90’s restriction on this voting method’s accessibility would impose greater burdens on Black voters compared to other groups.
     
  • The Arizona Mirror outlined that Arizona’s enactment of S.B. 1485 could purge an estimated 200,000 voters from the state’s widely used Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL). Altering the PEVL to be impermanent and rely more on voter activity, the article stated, would result in Latino, Black, tribal, and rural voters of Arizona facing disproportionate hurdles to voting.
     
  • In a press release, leaders of the Navajo Nation argued that shortening the window for a voter to add a missing signature on ballots sent by mail — established by Arizona’s S.B. 1003 — would harm Navajo voters more than other groups. This is due to there being no county seats on the Navajo Nation. Thus, voters may have to travel hundreds of miles to add a missing signature by 7 p.m. on Election Day instead of five business days after, as was initially agreed to in a settlement with the Arizona secretary of state’s office.
     
  • Mother Jones, using data from Fair Fight Action, revealed that Georgia’s S.B. 202 disproportionately disenfranchised Black voters in local elections in 2021. Black Georgians who applied for late ballot applications in 2021 made up half of all rejections when they only make up a third of eligible voters in the state. 

Thirty-three states introduced bills and nine enacted laws restricting voters from receiving help when casting their ballot or registering to vote

  • As part of litigation footnote2_ofm9wz4 2 League of Women Voters of Florida v. Lee, 4:21-cv-00186-MW-MAF (N.D. Fla., Jan 24, 2022), Dkt. 458–7. against FL S.B. 90, Daniel A. Smith, an expert in voting rights and elections as well as chair of the University of Florida’s political science department, showed that Black and Latino Floridians are more likely to utilize and depend on the use of third-party voter registration organizations to register to vote. The burden imposed by the passage of S.B. 90, which limits the ability of these organizations to help voters, therefore disproportionately falls on Black and Latino residents compared to white residents of Florida.
     
  • NPR and a lawsuit filed by Native American Rights Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of Montana underscored the disproportionate impact the state’s newly passed law, H.B. 530, would have on Native American voters. The law bans the use of paid ballot collectors, which many Native Americans residing on reservations rely on, due to infrequent mail service and a limited number of locations to cast a ballot (e.g. post offices, polling centers, drop boxes, etc.). This would make voting burdensome for many on reservations, especially those with disabilities or a lack of transportation.

Thirty-eight states introduced bills and seven enacted laws making voter identification laws stricter

  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution emphasized that the enactment of increasingly restrictive voter ID bills, such as S.B. 202, will suppress the votes of Georgia’s Black residents. The article’s analysis shows that this is due to Black registered voters being overrepresented amongst Georgia’s 3.5 percent of registrants without a qualifying state ID number or driver’s license –– more than half are comprised of Black registrants when they only account for 30 percent of the state’s registered voters. Without these accepted forms of ID, voting by mail will become much more challenging for thousands of Black voters because of GA S.B. 202. 

Ten states introduced bills and two enacted laws imposing restrictions on Election Day registration

  • The Montana Free Press and a complaint brought on behalf of disability rights activists and labor organizations from Montana explained that the end of Election Day voter registration, prompted by MT H.B. 176, will make it harder to vote for some of the state’s most vulnerable populations. The demise of Election Day registration, which has been used by tens of thousands of Montanans since its implementation in 2006, will be devastating for those with disabilities who may be unable to register to vote by less accessible methods offered prior to Election Day.

In 2021, at least one state enacted a law allowing more partisan control of election administration. Since the beginning of 2022, three more states have introduced similar bills

  • Reuters covered how multiple county election boards in Georgia were restructured and had their Black members purged after GA S.B. 202 passed, granting the State Election Board expanded control over county-level election boards they found to be “underperforming.” What quickly followed was the elimination of Sunday voting — a voting method disproportionately favored by Black voters statewide in the 2020 election — in one county and the proposed consolidation of voting centers in another.

End Notes