State lawmakers across the US have filed more than 100 bills since the November election aimed at reforming election procedure and limiting voter access, according to a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice.
In all, 28 states have introduced, pre-filed or are advancing 106 restrictive bills for the 2021 legislative session, a significant spike from just 35 bills in 15 states in 2020, according to the Brennan Center analysis. The majority of bills look to restrict or put limitations on how and who can vote by mail, while others look to impose photo ID laws and take a more aggressive voter purge policy, according to the report.
Their sponsors argue that the measures are necessary to restore confidence in and integrity to the voting process after it was marred by baseless allegations of voter fraud pushed by former President Donald Trump and other GOP officials, culminating with the deadly January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol.
Mail-in voting was dramatically expanded in 2020 because of the pandemic as election officials and lawmakers looked to balance public health precautions with the right to vote — and led to a dramatic shift in voter turnout, with Democrats disproportionately favoring mail-in or early voting options.
Though there has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud, Republicans nationally have made election law changes a priority this year.
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel has said the party will be taking a “heavy role” in pushing for the election changes.
“It’s going to be done at the state level. I think a lot of these states are already looking at their state laws,” McDaniel said in an interview with Fox News on Monday.
Opponents of the measures say that they make the voting process less secure while also limiting voter participation.
“There are some politicians that are very concerned about the historic turnout that we saw in the 2020 election and are determined to put barriers in front of the ballot box to try and give themselves a job security play,” Myrna Pérez, director of voting rights and elections at Brennan, said in an interview with CNN on Tuesday.
“There are some politicians who are trying to manipulate the rules of the game so some people can participate and some people can’t,” Pérez added.
Rolling back ‘no excuse voting’
Among the states where Republicans are leading a charge against mail-in voting is Pennsylvania, where mail-in ballots sealed President Joe Biden‘s victory over Trump. Lawmakers have offered three different proposals that look to eliminate so-called “no-excuse” mail voting legislation that passed in 2019 with a GOP-led legislature.
Pennsylvania state Rep. Jim Gregory, a Republican co-sponsor of one of the bills, previously told CNN that the goal is to restore “integrity and trust” in the voting process.
“The confusion that took place afterwards, and just the lack of faith in how things were run, is really affecting people’s belief and desire to want to vote again. That is especially true in my district,” he said.
In Arizona — another battleground state — that flipped to Democrats for only the second time in more than seven decades, Republicans have introduced legislation that would repeal the state’s permanent early voting list — which allows voters to automatically receive their ballots by mail for every election.
Lawmakers in Missouri are also looking to eliminate concerns about Covid-19 as an excuse for requesting absentee ballots, while a North Dakota bill would limit who can vote by absentee ballot.
Clamping down on applications and third-party involvement
Other states like New Jersey, Texas and Washington are considering bills that would limit who can send absentee ballot applications, or how widely they can go out.
In the lead-up to the November election, Texas in particular became the center of a fight over ballot mail-in ballots applications when Harris County, which includes the state’s largest city of Houston, was blocked from sending out applications to all voters amid legal fight with Republicans. The GOP argued that the applications should only go to voters qualified to vote by mail.
A slew of other bills being considered include measures that would restrict assistance to voters, would enhance witness requirements and would limit the options a voter has for returning their absentee ballot.
Requiring photo ID
Legislators in nearly a dozen states have introduced bills that would impose a photo ID requirement either for early in-person voting or voting by mail.
Proponents of photo ID requirements argue that it prevents voter fraud, although studies of recent elections show in-person voter fraud to be rare.
New Hampshire Republicans introduced a bill that would require voters to include a copy of their photo ID with their absentee ballot application and when returning their completed ballots.
Similar legislation was introduced on Monday in Georgia, where Republicans split with Trump to defend the November results but have since signed on to proposed reforms.
The Granite State is also considering a bill that would prevent the use of student IDs as identification for voting. Mississippi is weighing legislation that would prohibit the use of out of state drivers’ licenses.
GOP lawmakers are also focusing on voter roll maintenance, specifically looking to remove voters from rolls for inactivity.
An Arizona Republican legislator has introduced a bill that would remove voters who fail to vote in a four-year election cycle and fail to respond to a notice. Mississippi is considering a similar measure.
A New Hampshire bill would allow election officials to remove voters from rolls based on data provided by other sates, a practice that has been blocked by federal courts for violating the Nation Voter Registration Act.