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Research Report

The State of Voting 2018

Summary: The Brennan Center’s wide-ranging analysis of the laws and political forces that could impact the right to vote in 2018

Published: June 5, 2018

In the first federal election since the presidency turned on a razor-thin margin, voters in at least eight states will face more stringent voting laws than they did in the last federal election cycle, and voters in 23 states will face tougher rules on voting than they did in the 2010 wave election. In The State of Voting 2018, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law details threats to the ballot this fall. This wide-ranging analysis includes not just the laws but the political forces like gerrymandering and foreign interference that may impact Americans’ right to vote this November.

  • Update - Here’s what’s happened on the voting front since this report was published in June.

This fall, voters will head to the polls for the first time since our presidential election was decided by a margin of just 80,000 votes across three states. Clearly, every vote counts.

Nevertheless, on November 6, voters will face serious challenges to making their voices heard at the ballot box. These obstacles include voter ID laws and curbs on early voting. Extremely gerrymandered electoral maps and unresolved concerns regarding foreign interference in our elections also undermine the free and fair vote that is essential to our democracy.

As in previous election years, the Brennan Center has been tracking not just the laws but the political forces that may impact this year’s midterms.

Among our key findings:

  • This is the first election where there is widespread awareness of the risk of foreign hacking of our election systems. In 2016, Russian agents manipulated our electoral process and attempted to interfere with our voting systems. While there is no evidence that they succeeded in tampering with our systems, the threat is significant going into 2018. There is a race to spur states to upgrade the security of their systems, but millions of Americans will vote this November using vulnerable voting systems.
  • Many voters’ voices will be unfairly muted this November because numerous jurisdictions, several of which are critical to control of Congress and statehouses, are extremely gerrymandered. The Supreme Court could soon find that these districts are not only unfair but also unconstitutional. A decision striking down extreme partisan gerrymandering would be a win for voters in the longer term, but it will change little for voters this November.
  • The decade-long battle over restrictions to the franchise continues, with neither side yielding significant ground. But more than a dozen lawsuits challenging these restrictions are ongoing. This fight will likely remain at an impasse — with states implementing restrictions, courts blocking some of them in whole or in part, and states responding with new restrictions — until there is a more definitive consensus in the courts.
  • There is new public energy for positive change in voting. This is the first election where many voters will benefit from automatic voter registration: seven states and the District of Columbia will have AVR in place by November. (Only Oregonians were able to take advantage of AVR in a significant way prior to the 2016 election.) In addition, a broad swath of states will have significant voting referendums on the ballot this November, many put there by citizens themselves.