Voting Legislation on Parade

HR1 is a national approach to expanding voter access. State legislatures are trying to both expand and restrict the vote as well.

As noted in my previous post, the House-passed HR1 seeks to make it easier for Americans to vote. Meanwhile, a lot of states are seeking to do just the opposite. In the face of record voter turnout in 2020, fueled in part by increased access to vote-by-mail, many Republicans are clearly interested in reversing that trend.

For example, Republicans in Georgia, stung by losing the presidency and both Senate seats, are aiming to correct that problem not by being more competitive for votes, but by hopefully blunting the turnout of Black voters who are heavily inclined to vote Democratic. Via the NYT: In Georgia, Republicans Take Aim at Role of Black Churches in Elections.

Georgia Republicans are proposing new restrictions on weekend voting that could severely curtail one of the Black church’s central roles in civic engagement and elections. Stung by losses in the presidential race and two Senate contests, the state party is moving quickly to push through these limits and a raft of other measures aimed directly at suppressing the Black turnout that helped Democrats prevail in the critical battleground state.

[…]

The bill that passed the House would limit voting to at most one Sunday in October, but even that would be up to the discretion of the local registrar. It would also severely cut early voting hours in total, limit voting by mail and greatly restrict the use of drop boxes — all measures that activists say would disproportionately affect Black voters.

One might suppose that it is a coincidence that these measures just happen to affect areas that could have the effect of lessening Black voter turnout, but it is extremely difficult to see how it is anything other than a targeted attempt to depress a group that is known to vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

State Representative Barry Fleming, a Republican and chief sponsor of the House bill, did not respond to requests for comment, nor did three other Republican sponsors. In introducing the bill, Republicans in the Legislature portrayed the new restrictions as efforts to “secure the vote” and “restore confidence” in the electoral process, but offered no rationale beyond that and no credible evidence that it was flawed. (Georgia’s election was pronounced secure by Republican electoral officials and reaffirmed by multiple audits and court decisions.)

Not to get all esoterically political sciencey about all of this, but this is utter hogwash. The 2020 election was conducted by Republicans and multiple recounts showed that the system was secure and accurate. There is nothing that needs securing and the only reason there are any problems with confidence is because Donald Trump and his allies spread lies about the vote.

How else is one to interpret all of this in a way that doesn’t fall the laugh test?

Limiting Sunday voting would affect Black voters beyond losing the assistance of the church. It would inevitably lead to longer lines during the week, especially in the Black community, which has historically been underserved on Election Day.

The bill would also ban what is known as “line warming,” the practice of having volunteers provide water, snacks, chairs and other assistance to voters in line.

Latoya Brannen, 43, worked with members of the church and a nonprofit group called 9 to 5 to hand out snacks and personal protective equipment in November.

“We’ve learned that giving people just those small items helps keep them in line,” Ms. Brannen said. She said she had occasionally handed out bubbles to parents who brought young children with them.

Look, there is actually some legitimate logic to the notion that you don’t want people handing out goodies to voters in line. There are long-term issues associated with inducements being given out on election day as well as real concerns about electioneering at the polls. By the same token, the laws can easily be constructed to allow things like providing water and snacks to voters (and bubbles to kids) in line so long as it is done in a neutral, non-campaigning way.

Of course, the best way to cut down on that practice, if it bothers you, is to promote vote-by-mail and other reforms that would eliminate long lines.

The Brennan Center for Justice has a Voting Laws Roundup: February 2021 and State Voting Bills Tracker 2021. Both show the current attempts to both make voting harder and to make voting easier across the country.

As of late last month,

thirty-three states have introduced, prefiled, or carried over 165 bills to restrict voting access. These proposals primarily seek to: (1) limit mail voting access; (2) impose stricter voter ID requirements; (3) slash voter registration opportunities; and (4) enable more aggressive voter roll purges.

Not surprisingly, three of the top states with such bills are the three states that flipped from Republican to Democrat in 2020:

Arizona leads the nation in proposed voter suppression legislation in 2021, with 19 restrictive bills. Pennsylvania comes in second with 14 restrictive policy proposals, followed by Georgia (11 bills), and New Hampshire (10 bills).

Source: The Brennan Center

It is important to note that not all these proposed laws will not be passed (or even make to a final vote).

The linked article provides details on the types of restrictions being proposed.

There are also many attempts to make voting easier.

State legislators are also proposing policies to expand access to voting. Indeed, of the forty-one states with new election bills, thirty-seven states have introduced expansive policies, for a total of 541 expansive bills introduced or carried over into 2021. These bills focus primarily on: (1) mail voting; (2) early voting; (3) voter registration; and (4) voting rights restoration.

Source: The Brennan Center

Many of these-pro voter reforms have been introduced in states like New York (with 87 expansive bills) and New Jersey (with 38). But a significant number of these proposals have been introduced in states with histories of voter suppression, including Mississippi (38 bills), Missouri (26 bills), and Texas (67 bills) — suggesting that there remains concerted energy around policies that make voting easier, even if passage will be an uphill battle politically.

More details at the link.

The good news is that there are more proposals to expand voting access than to restrict, but sheer numbers don’t tell us much, as not all bills have the same chance of being passed. An interesting analytical exercise would be to code each bill by party sponsorship. I would hypothesize that the restrictive bills are overwhelmingly linked to Republican lawmakers and the expansive bills to Democrats, but I have not seen any empirical confirmation of this one way or the other.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, US Politics, Voting
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. drj says:

    There is actually some legitimate logic to the notion that you don’t want people handing out goodies to voters in line. […] the laws can easily be constructed to allow things like providing water and snacks to voters (and bubbles to kids) in line so long as it is done in a neutral, non-campaigning way.

    Simpler solution: get rid of the lines. More polling stations are better than needlessly complex legislation.

    I know this is obvious (which is why Republicans won’t go for it), but Democrats shouldn’t waste any energy at all addressing a wholly misplaced solution in the first place.

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  2. @drj: Well, my next line was:

    Of course, the best way to cut down on that practice, if it bothers you, is to promote vote-by-mail and other reforms that would eliminate long lines.

    😉

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  3. MarkedMan says:

    Republicans in Georgia, stung by losing the presidency and both Senate seats, are aiming to correct that problem not by being more competitive for votes, but by hopefully blunting the turnout of Black voters

    If you think of the Republican Party as a participant in a democracy dedicated to promoting their ideas and agendas then this behavior seems ludicrous. How hard would it be to identify a few significant items that appeal to Black voters and promote them? They wouldn’t get the majority of such voters but it is easy to see ways they could get 20 or even 25%.

    But if you accept that the Republican Party is dedicated to enforcing a Jim Crow regime which is explicitly non-democratic, their behavior makes sense. It is about keeping the poors and minorities in their place. Taking into account the desires and aspirations of those groups would mean helping them advance – the exact opposite of the Jim Crow agenda.

    Which of these two possibilities reflects reality? It is easy to see if you look at how Republicans act. Not just ignoring the aspirations and priorities of minorities and poors, but actual hostility to every single issue that is raised. No meaningful attempt made to learn about poor and minority lives, but rather a lackluster attempt to find poor and minority voters who unwaveringly subscribe to the Republican position, to be used as window dressing.

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  4. Modulo Myself says:

    I wonder if this will backfire. A bunch of out-of-touch white Republicans going on about vote fraud and targeting black voters will create a high-turnout election for the Democrats. But without an actual Trump running, what does the GOP have to counter this? In 2010, they hated Obama so much and they had the Tea Party. They have nothing like that now. It’s just inane grievances mouthed by D-list twits. Nobody hates Biden. The average voter is grateful for the stimulus, and they don’t give a shit a 1400 check going to a terrorist in prison.

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  5. Nightcrawler says:

    @drj:

    I agree. Get rid of the lines. Additionally, in situations where volunteers are handing out food, water, etc. to people in line, bar the volunteers from wearing or displaying any items that promote a candidate, party, or issue.

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  6. Nightcrawler says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Nobody hates Biden.

    That’s not what I’ve seen on social media or in the news. Republicans do hate him, and they really hate Harris. They hate anyone who isn’t a Republican and pro-DT, especially women and BIPOC.

    A bunch of out-of-touch white Republicans going on about vote fraud and targeting black voters will create a high-turnout election for the Democrats.

    I’d like to think that, but I know it’s not that simple, especially with all the roadblocks being placed in voters’ ways.

    AZ has a bill that would enable the state legislature to disregard the popular vote and award the state’s electoral votes to whoever the legislature wants, for whatever reason they want. If that law passes, there’s no point in even voting in AZ anymore. I also envision other red states cloning this law. If this goes through in AZ, and I fear it will, TX and FL will be right on it.

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  7. Kathy says:

    American Democracy: proudly suppressing the vote since 1776.

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  8. Gustopher says:

    Republicans in Georgia, stung by losing the presidency and both Senate seats, are aiming to correct that problem not by being more competitive for votes, but by hopefully blunting the turnout of Black voters who are heavily inclined to vote Democratic.

    Have they considered modifying the Q conspiracy theory so it also blames the satanic globalist pedophile ring of Democrats for promoting systemic racism to keep the Blacks oppressed, here and in Africa? It could be tailored in a way that gets a little white supremacy in — the reason Blacks are inferior would be because of the pedophile globalist Hollywood producers sticking things in hip hop records, perhaps.

    I see no reason why Blacks would be less susceptible to crazy conspiracy theories than whites (I am open to more information though). And once you’ve divorced yourself from reality, the sky’s the limit.

  9. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Nightcrawler:

    The bots and usual suspects are trying to gin up hatred for Biden and it may work, but currently most R’s are indifferent to Biden and actually like many of his proposals.

    Over the weekend, I read a piece on where to R’s go from here, one of the points that was made is that unlike Obama and Hillary, Biden is not seen as a monster. They quoted a vendor a CPAC who bemoaned the fact that anti-Biden paraphernalia wasn’t selling.

    Biden is a challenge to the R hatred machine because he’s a white male, been around for ever, comes across as a nice guy and is seen as empathetic. One reason Faux News and much of the RW media fixated on Dr Seuss, is that the Covid bill is popular with their viewers and to go all out in attacking the bill and Biden would have put the RW media in opposition to the bias of their audience.

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  10. Modulo Myself says:

    @Nightcrawler:

    Republicans in the media also think we are living under a tyranny of ‘cancel culture’. Meanwhile, 50% of America is unfamiliar with the term. Basically, these people are irrelevant, unless you have a job in the media.

    As far as the electoral college stuff goes, again, that will only increase Democratic turnout. Also, I just do not believe the GOP has the guts to go through with overturning electoral votes. They had a chance to do with it Trump and chickened out.

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  11. Modulo Myself says:

    I would just add that by this time in Obama’s first term the Tea Party was already funded and out in the open. Do you see anything like that now? The average Tea Party rube is angry about face masks and can’t wait to go back to Cracker Barrel for a 2000-calorie meal. That’s the burning cause for your average angry Republican. There’s no organization, no anything.

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  12. de stijl says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Biden and co. also seem to be ostentatiously avoiding culture war crap. Allowing that discourse to play out at lower levels.

    One huge upside to Biden is not worrying every morning, and checking CNN every morning, to see if the President tweeted us into WW3 overnight by stupid hubris.

    I massively prefer banal tweets in a President.

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  13. Nightcrawler says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Interesting that you brought up CPAC. I was shocked when my husband told me they had only ~1,400 attendees.

    As a comparison, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson drew 15,000 people to an X-Files convention, in Orlando no less, in 2018. The lines literally wrapped around the block, and it was so crowded inside the hotel, you couldn’t move.

    The way the media played it up, that’s what I thought CPAC had been like. I couldn’t believe that two actors from a sci-fi series that isn’t even being made anymore drew 10x more people.

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  14. Nightcrawler says:

    The last comic con I attended pre-apocalypse was a tiny event held in Lakeland. I went to meet the guy who wrote Effin’ Birds, heh. It was a true comic con; the focus was on comics, not TV shows. The only “celeb guest” was the guy who plays Jerry on The Walking Dead.

    I think that itty bitty little con drew more than 1,400 people.

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  15. de stijl says:

    @Nightcrawler:

    Jerry is fucking cool.

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  16. de stijl says:

    Instead of trying to secure an election system that ain’t broke maybe spend it on infrastructure that is decidedly broke.

    Electric grids, for example. A failure there is a major, possibly existential threat. Water. Let’s prevent the next Flint, please.

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  17. gVOR08 says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Over the weekend, I read a piece on where to R’s go from here, one of the points that was made is that unlike Obama and Hillary, Biden is not seen as a monster. They quoted a vendor a CPAC who bemoaned the fact that anti-Biden paraphernalia wasn’t selling.

    I saw the bit about the CPAC vendor, hilarious. Looks like Bitecofer is right, negative partisanship rules the day. And Biden agrees.

    @de stijl:

    Biden and co. also seem to be ostentatiously avoiding culture war crap.

    They are, but they can’t completely avoid it. I like Harris. I think she’ll be a great veep and could be a great president. But I can’t help but worry she has something in common with Obama, and something with Hillary. Biden defeated the worst president in history, James Buchanan possibly excepted, by about 4%. It doesn’t take much misogyny and racism to reverse that. A Democratic administration will not be able to avoid triggering some negative partisanship.

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  18. Loviatar says:

    Heritage Action wins today’s Bull Connor Award for Jim Crow voter suppression.

    Heritage Action for America, a conservative nonprofit tied to the right-leaning think tank The Heritage Foundation, on Monday will announce that it plans to spend at least $10 million on efforts to tighten election security laws in eight key swing states.

    —–

    When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
    — Maya Angelou

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  19. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Nightcrawler:

    Interesting that you brought up CPAC. I was shocked when my husband told me they had only ~1,400 attendees.

    I’ve drawn crowds of 900, in New Zealand and in the UK. And I was just talking about books, FFS.

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  20. de stijl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I drew 30 at most.

    Basements are small. And have shit acoustics. Basement parties are stupid fun. Best.

    We did have a bigger crowd at The Entry, but they were there for the main act, not us, so it is not applicable. It was daunting to look at that many faces I did not know.

  21. Kathy says:

    It looks like Trump is planning to commit voter fraud in Florida.

    Shouldn’t someone call 911?

    1
  22. Sleeping Dog says:

    @de stijl:

    At open stages, we’d note which young’n, typically a college kid, brought along the most friends to watch him/her do a set. Later, if we had an not very well known out of town performer or someone local who we knew needed a payday, that kid would get booked as the opening act. They’d bring half the dorm, siblings, parents, grandparents, cousins, former babysitters, you name it. The kid got his guarantee and chance to play in well regarded venue and (sometimes) open for a nationally known performer, while the house and the act were able to split 20-50 extra admissions.

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  23. Michael Cain says:

    @Nightcrawler:
    Keep in mind that AZ is a referendum state — should the “overrule the people’s vote” bill actually pass, and the governor sign it, enough collected signatures delays its going into effect until the people vote on it. A decade ago AZ voters took redistricting authority away from the legislature and gave it to an independent commission. The chances that a law letting the legislature overturn a popular vote ever goes into effect is zero.

  24. de stijl says:

    @Michael Cain:

    IIRC, Arizona has a really quite solid apolitical board for deciding congressional district boundaries. The anti-gerrymandering crew.

    I know it was at one time.

    That model needs to he replicated. Districts boundaries should not be decided by partisans.

  25. de stijl says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    I hear all of that.

    Sell those tickets.

  26. de stijl says:

    If you want to know what it feels like to play a basement party, We Were Indians have a great song called You’re All There. The last third which captures the moment quite well. Controlled chaos.

    H/t to Michael Reynolds who steered me onto these dudes.

    The Selby Tigers have great vids about this. (and super great songs too) homies