Five Ideas States Implemented from the Democracy Playbook

5 min readJun 30


Plus, find out how states around the country are protecting democracy with the NewDEAL Forum on July 7th

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Since January of this year, eleven states passed at least thirteen restrictive voting laws, including laws to curb voting by mail, stricter voter ID laws, and even attempts to make it harder to register to vote, according to a recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice.

The growing anti-democratic movement is troubling, and urgency is needed to stop its spread. That’s why, in January, the NewDEAL Forum’s Democracy Working Group released a Democracy Playbook, a report consisting of dozens of recommendations for states to strengthen democratic institutions.

While troubling trends exist, several states have already implemented numerous suggestions from the Playbook to promote democracy, including in some places you might not expect, showing that it’s possible to positively strengthen the integrity of our elections throughout the nation.

Here are five ideas from the Democracy Playbook that states have turned into law:

  1. Enact Adequate Penalties for Threats

“[E]lection workers have faced a dramatic increase in violent threats as a result of lies and conspiracy theories. Such political violence is unacceptable in a healthy democracy, and elected leaders must do all in their power to protect election workers.” — Democracy Playbook

In April 2023, Arkansas enacted a new law making it a Class A misdemeanor to use “force, intimidation, harassment, or coercion to interfere with a registered voter’s ability to vote, an election official’s duties, or a poll watcher’s duties.”

In May, Oklahoma followed suit, enacting a new law making it a crime to “harass, intimidate, threaten or ‘dox’ an election official. (‘Doxing’ is the release of personally identifiable information with malicious intent.)”

Also in May, Nevada strengthened laws related to harassing or intimidating election officials. Under the new law, penalties range from one to four years in prison.

In addition, Minnesota, New Mexico, and North Dakota also passed laws protecting election workers from harassment and/or interference, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

2. Use Secure Drop Boxes

“Secure drop-boxes are a great alternative to returning absentee ballots through the mail. Drop-boxes can be placed throughout a community and securely monitored by either in-person guards or through video surveillance. If allowed under state law, local election officials should install drop-boxes as a way to make voting more convenient.” — Democracy Playbook

In June, Colorado enacted SB 276, which sets drop box requirements for college campuses.

In a sweeping voting package, New Mexico has also passed a law expanding the use of drop boxes (see more about New Mexico below).

3. Enact Automatic Voter Registration

“One of the best ways to increase voter registration is to link it with other government services, so that citizens do not need to go through extra steps to register.” — Democracy Playbook

Minnesota enacted three broad voting rights bills into law earlier this year, including provisions to automatically register voters when they apply for a drivers license or apply for MinnesotaCare or Medical Assistance. The law also includes the ability of high-school students aged 16 and 17 to pre-register to vote, meaning they would automatically be registered to vote on their 18th birthday.

New Mexico also passed a new law allowing automatic voter registration (see more about New Mexico below).

(NOTE: Automatic voter registration laws contain voluntary opt-out provisions.)

4. Make Early In-Person Voting Easier

“[A]llowing robust early voting is one way to increase voter turnout.” — Democracy Playbook

After years of trying, voters successfully amended Connecticut’s constitution to allow early voting. Under the new guidelines, the state will have 14 days of early voting, starting in 2024.

Minnesota’s new laws also included provisions to make early voting easier, including allowing workers to take time off of work to vote during the entire early vote period, not just on Election Day.

Legislation moving through the Michigan legislature (see more below) would codify at least nine days of early voting in the state.

5. Enact Permanent Vote-by-Mail Lists

“[Permanent vote-by-mail lists] reduces the burden on citizens to request an absentee ballot each election cycle. Rather, the state automatically mails a ballot to residents on this list, making the voting process easier.” — Democracy Playbook

On March 30, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a sweeping voting rights bill into law. In addition to establishing automatic voter registration, restoring the voting rights of more than 10,000 formerly incarcerated New Mexicans, and expanding the use of drop boxes, the law created a “voluntary permanent absentee voter list.” Residents who sign up for this service are automatically mailed a ballot for each election. Advocates for such a list say it removes the burden of requesting an absentee ballot every election, as well as issues with applying before certain deadlines.

Minnesota’s expansive new voting law (see above) also included provisions for a permanent vote-by-mail list.

EVENT: Legislative Recap: Defending Democracy in the States on Friday, July 7, 2023 at 1 PM ET:
Join the NewDEAL Forum and the Brennan Center for a webinar discussion featuring New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver on efforts to preserve democracy in state legislatures around the country (

These victories are worth celebrating. And there are more on the horizon.

In Michigan, a series of pro-voting bills introduced by Sens. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton), Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), and Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) have been introduced with support from Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a co-chair of the Forum’s Democracy Working Group. Combined, the bills would codify at least nine days of early voting in the state; increase protections for voters with disabilities; and strengthen regulations prohibiting harassment and intimidation of election workers. As of mid-June, similar legislation passed the state’s House and Senate, and must be reconciled before going to the governor for her signature.

Every move to strengthen and expand the reach of democracy is a move in the right direction.

NewDEAL continues to support efforts to strengthen and expand access to democracy. And the NewDEAL Forum’s Democracy Working Group continues to meet to explore additional issues related to protecting our democracy.

The Democracy Working Group is led by Jocelyn Benson (Michigan Secretary of State), Adrian Fontes (Arizona Secretary of State), Sandra Jauregui (Nevada Assemblywoman) and Ken Lawrence (Montgomery County, PA, County Commissioner). The Democracy Playbook was the result of nearly a year of meetings with elected officials and issue-area experts.




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