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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.