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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_icn4kyt 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_2q9qsr5 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