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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

Editor's note: A recap of this year's voting laws as well as a look ahead at upcoming voting legislation in 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_lagbj3p 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_cyrugjj 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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