It’s as though every week another state is making headlines in their effort to push through voting legislation. While the integrity of the U.S. election system is no new debate, the 2020 election set in motion a wave of legislative review across states. Ahead of some high-profile Senate races next year, supporters will say changes are necessary to ensure the integrity of elections. Critics will say most of these laws suppress voters, particularly those of color.
Here at Voterly, we do the research so you don’t have to. We’ve broken down each state, so far, to pass revised voting laws.
Effective March 4, 2021
Arkansas kicked things off in early March, with a couple of bills related to voter ID requirements. They are set to pass another bill related to electioneering and polling places, but for now, here’s what’s official.
- Arkansas voters no longer have the option to vote provisionally if they do not have a photo ID. They must return to the county clerk’s office the Monday after election day with a photo ID, in order for their vote to be counted.
- Non-photo IDs are no longer valid as voter identification.
Iowa | S.F. 413
Effective March 8, 2021
Not long after Arkansas, the Iowa state legislature proposed a few bills related to voting, that were later narrowed down and incorporated into this omnibus bill. Here are the main takeaways.
- Early voting is reduced to 20 days before the election, as opposed to the previous 29.
- Absentee ballots are not to be sent out unless they’ve been requested.
- There is a maximum of 1 ballot dropbox per county at the auditor’s office, which is to be under 24-hour surveillance.
- Only the voter, an immediate family member, household member, or caregiver may return an absentee ballot via mail or dropbox at the auditor’s office.
- Absentee ballots must be returned by the close of polls on election day, as opposed to the previous deadline of the Monday following the election.
- Polls close at 8 p.m. on election day, as opposed to the previous 9 p.m. closure.
Georgia | S.B. 202
Effective March 25, 2021
They were probably the first state you’d heard passed voter legislation in the new year. Georgia sparked debate across the country, after passing one of the more restrictive voter laws since the 2020 Election. The omnibus bill comes out to 98 pages, so we’ll give you the reader's digest version.
- Georgia’s Secretary of State is removed as chair of the state elections board, and the replacement is appointed by the state legislature.
- Early voting is extended by a day, but poll hours are limited to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with discretion for counties to extend it from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- A voter can request an absentee ballot a max of 78 days before Election Day, as opposed to the previous 180 days.
- A voter must submit their request for an absentee ballot no later than 11 days before an election, as opposed to the previous 4 days.
- A driver’s license number, state I.D. number, or the last four digits of their social security number are required to vote absentee.
- A minimum of one ballot dropbox is guaranteed per county, but each county is limited to one ballot dropbox per every 100,000 registered voters.
Effective April 19, 2021
Later in April, Montana Governor, Greg Gianforte, signed House Bill 176 into law. The seven-page bill is succinct in its effort to limit voter access. It officially ends same-day voter registration in the state, requiring that a citizen must be registered by the Friday prior to election day. S.B. 169 was also signed into law, revising voter ID laws. A voter is now required to have a government-issued photo ID or a state concealed carry permit to vote. This bill specifically affects students, who are no longer allowed to vote with their student ID. Anyone who cannot provide an approved form of ID must provide two other forms of identification, i.e. pay stubs, bank statements, utility bills, or other government documents that show the voter’s name and current address.
Utah | H.B. 12
Effective May 5, 2021
This law is rather concise and addresses what is called “voter purges.” It requires county clerks to cross-reference all death certificates against voter registration lists and remove the names of dead voters within 10 days. It does not notify anyone of the removal, leaving critics to argue that it could cause the wrong name to be removed from voter registration. Supporters believe it will prevent family members from receiving extra ballots in the mail.
Florida | S.B. 90
Effective May 6, 2021
Just as the outrage surrounding Georgia slowed, Florida reignited the dispute with another omnibus bill. Governor DeSantis signed into law S.B. 90, legislation that addresses mail-in ballots, ballot boxes, and voter identification. Here’s what that means.
- A voter must have their state ID or the last four digits of their social security number in order to obtain a mail ballot. There is no alternative proof that can be provided.
- In order to receive a mail-in ballot, the voter must submit their request every 2-year election cycle rather than every 4.
- Ballots are prohibited from being mailed to residents unless they’ve submitted a request to vote by mail.
- Ballot drop boxes are to be located at a county voting office or an early voting location.
- Ballot drop boxes are to be staffed by a county employee during operating hours, lessening the hours that drop boxes are open.
Arizona | S.B. 1485
Effective May 11, 2021
In mid-May, the Arizona legislature passed S.B. 1485, addressing the distribution of mail-in ballots. Arizona’s mail ballot system is widely popular across the state, but will now be regulated with the use of the “Active Early Voting List,” previously titled the “Permanent Early Voting List.” The change in name reflects the new law, stating voters will be removed from the list if they do not vote by mail at least once in a two-year election cycle. Other provisions are expected to make their way through the Arizona legislature, the next one targeting signature matching when voting by mail. However, each provision is a separate bill, rather than sweeping omnibus bills we’ve been seeing from other states.
Effective July 1, 2021
After a hard-fought battle between the Kansas state Legislature and Governor Laura Kelly, the state will enact two election bills. Democratic Governor Kelly vetoed both bills back in April, saying in a statement that the bills are “a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. It is designed to disenfranchise Kansans, making it difficult for them to participate in the democratic process, not to stop voter fraud.” Despite the Governor’s attempt to enforce her veto power, both the House and Senate had a two-thirds majority to override the veto. Here’s how voting in Kansas will change.
- The state executive and judicial branches are prohibited from altering election laws.
- The Secretary of State is barred from entering into consent decrees with state and federal courts to enforce or change election rules without approval from Kansas legislators.
- A person is limited to returning no more than 10 ballots on behalf of other voters, and they must be family members. This restricts current programs in Kansas that return ballots on behalf of poor, elderly, or disabled voters.
- Absentee ballot signatures must match the voter’s signature on file in the county, or it risks being thrown out.
- The act of falsely representing an election official is criminalized, and the crime of electioneering is expanded.
Wyoming | H.B. 0075
Effective July 1, 2021
Wyoming’s latest voter law redefines what is a valid form of voter identification and now requires that a voter present this identification before voting at the polls. Previously, voters were only required to show proof of I.D. when registering to vote. Failing to present I.D. at the polls can result in the voter being challenged. Under H.B. 0075, valid forms of I.D. are as follows.
- Wyoming state driver’s license
- Tribal identification card issued by the governing body of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe of Wyoming, the Northern Arapaho Tribe of Wyoming, or any other federally recognized Indian tribe
- Wyoming identification card
- U.S. passport
- U.S. military card
- Driver’s license or identification card issued by any state or outlying possession of the United States
- Photo identification issued by the University of Wyoming, a Wyoming community college, or a Wyoming public school
- Valid Medicaid insurance card
Kentucky | H.B. 574
Effective April 7, 2021
Amidst the battle over voting rights, Kentucky surprised the nation with a bipartisan bill that actually expands voter access. Keeping in mind Kentucky had some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country, the state became the first Republican-led legislature to pass expansive voting laws since the 2020 election. Being that it is bipartisan, there were of course compromises that made for additional limitations to voters as well. We’ve summed it up for you below.
- Establishes 3 days of early voting.
- Establishes an online portal where citizens can register to vote and request an absentee ballot. However, it limits the days in which a voter can request a ballot by requiring the request be due 14 days before the election, rather than the previous 7 days.
- Absentee voters have the opportunity to “cure” their ballot if a mistake was made, in order to have it count.
- Registered voters can vote anywhere within their county, regardless of precinct.
Virginia | Voting Rights Act of Virginia
Effective April 7, 2021
The Democrat-led state of Virginia has also expanded its voting rights in 2021. The Voting Rights Act of Virginia was passed in March, making Virginia the first southern state to pass its own version of the 1965 federal Voting Rights Act. The bill mainly focuses on election officials, establishing ways to enforce a check on their power. The bill was voted on down party lines, a majority of Republicans opposing the following changes.
- Prohibits any state or local policies from denying or restricting voting rights based on race, color, or native language.
- Requires local election officials to get feedback or pre-approval from the state’s attorney general before making changes to their voting system.
- Allows residents to sue in cases of voter suppression.
- Prohibits at-large local elections if they dilute the voting power of racial minorities.
- Requires local election officials to provide all voting materials in other languages as needed.
New York | A.B. 2574
Effective January 1, 2023
Rather brief, this bill addresses automatic voter registration and was signed by the Governor in February. The bill expands the use of automatic voter registration, by requiring designated State agencies to establish an automatic voter registration system. Anyone applying for state government services will automatically be registered to vote unless voluntarily opting out of the service. Additionally, New York has nine other expansive voter laws being debated in the Senate. Most have yet to be passed onto the House but are making progress in hopes of providing resources for eligible voters.
New Jersey | S3203
Effective June 2021
Also brief, this New Jersey law requires all counties to hold nine days of early, in-person machine voting ending the Sunday before Election Day in general elections. This will allow New Jersey’s black communities to participate in “souls to the polls” for the first time, a tradition in Black communities where people attend church services on Sunday followed by voting at the polls. The number of early voting days differs depending on the type of election. Every county must have at least three days of early voting for nonpresidential primaries, and five for a presidential primary. The law goes into effect in time for New Jersey’s statewide primary election in June of this year.
States to Watch
The battle over states’ election laws is far from over. Legislators are moving quickly, many following in the footsteps of Georgia and Florida. These are the states to watch.
Texas | S.B. 7
In an effort to pass a sweeping voting procedures bill, Republican lawmakers in Texas were working to get S.B. 7 to the Governor’s desk by their adjourn deadline of midnight on May 30th. The bill is considered to have some of the strictest limitations on voters that the country has seen this year. After learning of last-minute provisions made to the bill, and a new rule that would limit how long legislators could debate on the House floor, Democrats resorted to a walkout in which 62 of them left the chamber. This move ultimately killed the bill for now; however, Republicans will likely call a special session sometime this summer in which they will have to restart the process of passing the bill. Here are the provisions likely to return in the new bill.
- Ban after-hours voting.
- Eliminate ballot drop boxes and drive-through voting centers.
- Mandate that all weekday early voting takes place between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., and limit Sunday early voting to a maximum between the hours of 1 p.m. and 9 p.m, said to be targeting the “Souls to the Polls” efforts of Black communities in which they vote Sunday mornings after church.
- Criminalize mailing a vote-by-mail application to anyone who did not request one.
- Require that anyone applying to vote-by-mail provides their driver’s license number or Social Security number on both their request for a ballot and their return envelope containing their ballot.
- Impose $1,000-a-day fines on local election officials who do not follow prescribed procedures to update their voter rolls and criminal penalties on election workers who obstruct poll-watchers.
Republican lawmakers in the state of Michigan have proposed 39 bills in the Senate that look to restrict voting laws. Some of the measures would limit voter access to absentee ballot drop boxes and require photo ID to vote in person or by mail. They also would enact a prohibition on officials mailing out absentee ballot applications or offering prepaid postage on mail ballots
Missouri’s Republican-led House has passed provisions that would impose strict photo ID requirements to vote. The bill is slow-moving as it's been met with backlash from groups like the ACLU, Empower Missouri, and the League of Women Voters.
What Happens Next?
Voting rights activists and organizations across the country are fighting back, suing states on the grounds that the new laws infringe upon a citizen’s right to vote. Already, there are 6 active lawsuits in Georgia, 2 in Florida, 1 in Iowa, the list goes on. However, what’s seemed to have gained the most traction and attention is at the federal level. H.R. 1, otherwise known as the For the People Act, is a bill in Congress that directly addresses voting rights, and has the potential to standardize them across the country. The passage of this bill would overturn a majority of the restrictive laws that have passed at the state level, leading voting rights activists to believe this is the best way to fight back. Below are some of the points H.R. 1 argues for.
- The expansion of voter registration, standardizing automatic and same-day registration across states.
- Universal access to vote-by-mail, meaning every registered voter would have the option to mail in their vote.
- End partisan gerrymandering by banning partisan lawmakers from drawing district lines, and replacing them with independent commissioners.
- Creating greater transparency of a campaign’s finances, limiting corporate and foreign influence on US democracy.
The bill has passed the Democrat-led House of Representatives, but has a tough road ahead in the Republican-held Senate.
How Can I Stay Updated?
All of these changes are reflected on Voterly’s State Voting Information pages. You can navigate to your state’s page to find up-to-date information and resources for voting rules and regulations applicable to you. You can also get involved! Whether you’re for or against your state’s voting laws, let your representatives know. You can find your representatives and their contact information here.