Wave of Bills Affecting Voter Access After 2020 Election


Aidan Sims, Writer

After the 2020 presidential, congressional, senatorial, and gubernatorial elections, questions were raised all over the country regarding the integrity of our elections, even though nothing has yet to be proven. 

28 states have introduced more than a hundred bills in 2021 with plans to restrict voting access, while this time last year only 35 bills, about one-third of this year’s, were filed on this subject. Rather than trying to win elections the traditional way, campaigning, knocking on doors, paying for advertisements, it seems these state legislators are trying to win elections by shrinking the electorate so that they can keep their job.

The specific legislation to restrict access can be categorized into different subjects; restrictions on mail voting, stricter voter ID, and cutting back on registration opportunities.

Nearly half of the bills are focused on mail voting given the record-high turnout and mail-in voting seen in the 2020 elections. 14 bills are making the “excuse” for a mail-in ballot stricter or eliminating the “no excuse” option altogether. Other bills would completely erase entire electorate groups from receiving mail-in ballots. Some people are on the “permanent early voter list” or the  “permanent absentee ballot list” meaning that every election cycle, they can vote early or receive an absentee ballot anyway. Bills in Arizona and Pennsylvania seek to eliminate the “permanent early voting list,” and bills in Arizona, Hawaii, and New Jersey seek to eliminate the “Permanent absentee ballot list.” Other bills restrict the ability to apply for an absentee ballot for someone else.

Other restrictions for mail-in ballots include notarization of ballots, turning in absentee ballots in person, and stricter signature matching. 40 bills, on the other hand, focus on requirements for voter ID. A Mississippi bill would erase the use of out-of-state drivers’ licenses, and a New Hampshire bill would erase the use of a student ID and voter ID. Bills in Georgia and New Hampshire would require a photocopy of someone’s registered photo ID on their mail-in ballot and absentee ballot.

Another group of bills focuses on cutting registration opportunities. 10 bills have reduced or completely removed election day registration. Some states have introduced bills that reduce or remove Automatic Voter Registration that makes voter registration “opt-out” rather than “opt-in” for individuals that interact with government agencies.

It’s important to note that many of these bills are filed in what are known in politics as “swing states.” Swing states are states that can flip on which party they vote for in presidential elections, and have representatives and senators of both parties. Pennsylvania, Arizona, New Hampshire, Georgia, Florida, and Nevada are just a few. So the elected officials in each state are not completely safe in their jobs, as they could be more easily voted out of office in comparison to officials in other states like California or Alabama. 

It’s also important to note that 37 states have filed more than 500 bills to expand voter access, such as implementing Automatic Voter Registration, allowing all citizens to vote by mail, providing more ballot boxes, and implementing election day registration. 

The question of making election day and federal holiday is raised since many people use early voting and absentee ballots because they don’t have time on election day to vote. If election day was a federal holiday then citizens would have the entire day to vote, meaning that controversy over mail-in, absentee, and early voting would lessen since fewer people would be using those methods to vote.

Regarding the ethics of these new propositions, the right to vote is held with all citizens above or at the age of 18, regardless of any other identifiers and attributes. And while it’s important to have election integrity, especially under a hostile and heated political climate, the voter fraud rate remains at 0.0025%, a percentage so negligible that the chance of voter fraud actually impacting the election results is even smaller.