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Voting Laws Roundup: July 2021

Eighteen states have already enacted 30 laws this year that will make it harder for Americans to vote.

Published: July 22, 2021

 

Click here for the most recent Voting Laws Roundup.

Edit­or’s note: A recap of 2021’s voting laws as well as a look at voting legis­la­tion planned for 2022 can be found here.

As many state legis­latures conclude their regu­lar sessions, the full impact of efforts to suppress the vote in 2021 is coming into view.

Between Janu­ary 1 and July 14, 2021, at least 18 states enacted 30 laws that restrict access to the vote. foot­note1_y5c48x8 1 AL H.B. 285, AL H.B. 538, AR H.B. 1112, AR H.B. 1244, AR H.B. 1715, AR S.B. 643, AZ S.B. 1003, AZ S.B. 1485, AZ S.B. 1819, FL S.B. 90, GA S.B. 202, IA S.F. 413, IA S.F. 568, ID H.B. 290, IN S.B. 398, KS H.B. 2183, KS H.B. 2332, KY H.B. 574, LA H.B. 167, MT H.B. 176, MT H.B. 530, MT S.B. 169, MT S.B. 196, NH H.B. 523, NV S.B. 84, OK H.B. 2663, TX H.B. 3920, TX S.B. 1111, UT H.B. 12, WY H.B. 75.  These laws make mail voting and early voting more diffi­cult, impose harsher voter ID require­ments, and make faulty voter purges more likely, among other things. More than 400 bills with provi­sions that restrict voting access have been intro­duced in 49 states in the 2021 legis­lat­ive sessions.

The new laws restrict­ing voting access are not created equal. For example, four of these laws are mixed, mean­ing they also contain pro-voter policies (IN S.B. 398, KY H.B. 574, LA H.B. 167, OK H.B. 2663). Other restric­tions are narrower in their scope (e.g., NV S.B. 84, UT H.B. 12). Three states have enacted broad omni­bus voter suppres­sion laws this year (GA S.B. 202, FL S.B. 90, IA S.F. 413), while Arkan­sas, Montana, and Arizona all passed multiple restrict­ive voting laws (Arkan­sas and Montana passed four such laws each and Arizona passed three).

This wave of restric­tions on voting — the most aggress­ive we have seen in more than a decade of track­ing state voting laws — is in large part motiv­ated by false and often racist alleg­a­tions about voter fraud.

Congress has the power to stem the tide. The For the People Act, passed by the House and now await­ing action in the Senate, would mitig­ate the effect of many state-level restric­tions. And the John Lewis Voting Rights Advance­ment Act would protect voters by prevent­ing new discrim­in­at­ory laws from being imple­men­ted.

There may be more new state voting laws still to come this year. Active regu­lar legis­lat­ive sessions continue in Cali­for­nia, Massachu­setts, Michigan, North Caro­lina, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wiscon­sin. And Maine’s special legis­lat­ive session is ongo­ing.

Texas lawmakers in partic­u­lar appear poised to enact addi­tional restrict­ive voting legis­la­tion this year. During the 30-day special session that began in Austin on July 8, state lawmakers intro­duced a slew of restrict­ive voting propos­als, includ­ing two omni­bus bills (S.B. 1 and H.B. 3) contain­ing numer­ous anti-voter provi­sions.

In response, Demo­cratic members of the Texas House of Repres­ent­at­ives left the state on July 12 for Wash­ing­ton, DC, depriving the cham­ber of the quorum required to pass legis­la­tion. These state repres­ent­at­ives brought an urgent message to Congress, stress­ing the need to pass federal voting protec­tions, includ­ing the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advance­ment Act. However, Gov. Greg Abbott has prom­ised to continue call­ing special sessions as needed until lawmakers return to the state.

At the same time, at least 25 states enacted 54 laws with provi­sions to expand voting access. foot­note2_i31t0g4 2 CA S.B. 152, CA S.B. 29, CO H.B. 1011, CT S.B. 1202, DE S.B. 5, HI S.B. 159, HI S.B. 548, IL H.B. 1871, IL S.B. 825, IN H.B. 1479, IN H.B. 1485, IN S.B. 398, KY H.B. 574, LA H.B. 167, LA H.B. 286, MA H. 73, MD H.B. 1048, MD H.B. 206, MD H.B. 745, MD S.B. 525, MD S.B. 596, MD S.B. 683, ME L.D. 1126, ME L.D. 1363, ME L.D. 1399, ME L.D. 1575, ME L.D. 221, MN H.F. 1952, MT S.B. 15, ND H.B. 1078, ND H.B. 1253, ND H.B. 1447, NH H.B. 555, NJ S.B. 3203, NM H.B. 231, NV A.B. 121, NV A.B. 321, NV A.B. 432, NY A.B. 2574, NY S.B. 830B, OK H.B. 2663, OR H.B. 2681, OR H.B. 3021, VA H.B. 1888, VA H.B. 1890, VA H.B. 1921, VA H.B. 1968, VA H.B. 2125, VA S.B. 1097, VA S.B. 1245, VA S.B. 1331, VA S.B. 1395, VT S.B. 15, WA H.B. 1078.  These laws expand access to early and mail voting, make voter regis­tra­tion easier, and restore voting rights to Amer­ic­ans with past convic­tions, among other meas­ures. Many of the states in which voting is already compar­at­ively more access­ible are the same as those enact­ing policies to further strengthen voting access, deep­en­ing a national divide such that the prom­ise of the right to vote depends increas­ingly on where Amer­ic­ans happen to live. More than 900 bills with expans­ive provi­sions have been intro­duced in 49 states in the 2021 legis­lat­ive sessions.

End Notes

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