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Republican-Controlled State Legislatures Seek to Restrict Voting Access


by Kimberly Marek

Key Takeaways

  • Republican-held state legislatures are making it more difficult for citizens to vote by restricting mail-in voting, limiting voter registration and proposing more stringent voter ID laws.

  • Arizona and Georgia were critical in delivering the Presidential win to Joe Biden. Legislatures in these states are leading voter suppression efforts in preparation for 2022 Senate races and beyond.

  • If left unchallenged, systematic efforts by state legislatures will have devastating effects on voter enfranchisement and will disproportionately affect communities of color, low-income families, the elderly and other vulnerable populations.

In Response to Historic 2020 Voter Turnout, Republican-Led State Legislatures are Introducing Voting Restriction Measures Across the Country.


Nearly two-thirds of eligible voters cast ballots in the 2020 election, up 7% from 2016. Voter turnout in 2020 was the highest in 120 years when measured as a percentage of the voting-eligible population. Increased ground efforts by local and national organizations contributed to an influx in voter participation. A record breaking 81 million people voted for President Joe Biden, 7 million more than Donald Trump. President Biden received more votes than any other Presidential nominee in history. Increased enfranchisement resulted in increased voter participation in nearly all demographic groups.


Despite President Biden’s historic victory and record-breaking voter turnout, the Electoral College could have swung Trump by the narrowest of margins. Notably, the Council on Foreign Relations reports that if Trump had picked up the right mix of 42,921 votes in Arizona (10,457), Georgia (11,779), and Wisconsin (20,682), the Electoral College would have been tied at 269.


Think about that for a moment…


President Biden earned 7,060,140 more votes yet a divergence of .0003% of total votes cast could have changed the outcome of the election. Understanding that the Electoral College and not the popular vote wins elections, GOP state legislatures across the country are putting forth legislation that would make it more difficult to vote.


The Brennan Center for Justice cites that 165 voting restrictive bills have been presented before local legislative governing bodies, up 400% from this time in 2020. Restrictive legislation can take many forms but most commonly state legislatures are proposing restrictions on mail-in voting, voter registration, and more stringent voter ID laws. Such restrictions have been proposed in 33 states. Voting laws are established and governed at the state-level; GOP-led state legislatures are expected to successfully pass suppressive legislation. There are currently 23 states that have GOP-controlled state legislatures.


President Biden Won Arizona and Georgia. Now State Legislatures are Rushing Some of the Most Restrictive Voting Legislation in Generations.


Legislators in 33 states are actively working to disenfranchise voters nationwide. Arizona and Georgia are of particular interest; they both delivered key wins for President Biden in the 2020 election despite holding a GOP ‘trifecta’ of governance. In other words, both states are GOP led in the Governorship and state Senate and House bodies. As a result, voter disinfrancement proposals are more likely pass and become law.


Arizona

Since President Biden’s Arizona win, legislatures in this state have put forth a slew of anti-democratic proposals that would restrict voter access to the ballot box as well as suppress voter registration. Specifically, some of the 19 GOP-backed proposals would limit or eliminate no-excuse absentee ballots, remove ballot boxes entirely, make it harder to obtain an absentee ballot, impose stricter ID requirements and even give the legislature the right to pick presidential electors despite election results.


Yes, you read that last line correctly.


Arizona HB2720 introduced by Representative Bolick is a threat to American voting rights as we know them. If passed, the bill gives state legislatures power to decertify the Secretary of State’s election certification. The will of millions of Arizonans could be overturned by a handful of state representatives. This is not democracy.


Georgia

Fair Fight, Souls to the Polls and other grassroots organizations in Georgia worked relentlessly to infrancize thousands of voters. These voters were Black, Hispanic or other vulnerable voting communities including persons with disabilities and people in rural areas without access to high-speed internet.


President Biden won the state of Georgia by over 12,000 votes. Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger recounted the Georgia vote twice and yielded the same result. No evidence of voter fraud was found nor was any evidence presented in court.


In response, GA GOP-led chambers have presented numerous bills to restrict voter access. Buried in nearly 50 pages of legislation, Georgia’s HB531, if passed, would restrict early voting, expand photo ID requirements, nearly eliminate absentee voting and remove most ballot dropbox locations as well as restrict dropbox availability hours. The bill also restricts counties from allowing early voting on the Sunday before Election Day. This seemingly arbitrary addition will have a direct and significant impact on Black communities. It is a strategic and deliberate effort to nullify successful voter Black Church mobilization efforts by Souls to the Polls.


Systematic Efforts to Undermine Voting Access Will Disproportionately Impact People of Color, Low-Income Families, the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities.


The GOP, continuing false claims of widespread voter fraud, claim proposed legislation will stop alleged fraud. To date, no evidence of voter fraud has been presented in court. Trump’s attorneys have stated under oath that there is no evidence of voter fraud.


This systematic and purposeful attack on democracy will have devastating effects on historically disenfranchised groups. The right to vote is the cornerstone to our democracy and we cannot allow it to slip between our fingers and into the hands of those who wish to dismantle it.


Voter suppression efforts will disproportionately impact communities that are historically disenfranchised. This is, indeed, the very point of these legislative efforts.


It is our responsibility to protect every voter’s rights. It is our duty to uphold the ideals of this nation that all people are indeed created equal and that we will work towards a more perfect union that holds elected officials responsible for protecting the people’s right to vote.


Voting should be easy, accessible and secure. Democrats have put forth legislation that would ensure this to be true for the American electorate. The For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would expand voter access, eliminate suppressive voting tactics, and so much more.

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