The race to change voting rules is on


With less than eight months to go before the November midterms, Republican lawmakers around the country are racing to change election laws.

In 14 states, Republican lawmakers so far have advanced 36 restrictive voting bills through state legislatures, according to the Voting Rights Lab, a group working to expand access to the ballot.

This is the second year that Republicans have taken aim at election laws since the 2020 general election. While many of last year’s bills sought to tighten access to the ballot, many in this year’s batch focus on how elections are run. Bills pending in Kansas and Georgia, for instance, establish detailed chain-of-custody procedures that election workers must follow for handling ballots.

“We’re seeing these types of bills that are … feeding into the narrative that election administrators need to be more closely monitored,” Liz Avore, vice president of law and policy at the Voting Rights Lab, told CNN.

The bills are part of a continued effort by Republicans to tighten access to the ballot box and tweak election procedures amid pressure following Joe Biden’s 2020 victory. Former President Donald Trump and his allies have falsely attributed his loss in key states to election fraud.

In Arizona, where Biden won by more than 10,000 votes, Republicans introduced more than 100 election-related bills. A few dozen remain active, including proposals that would ban drive-thru voting, limit the use of drop boxes and make it easier to cancel voter registrations.

Arizona isn’t alone.

Republican lawmakers in the Michigan House, for instance, recently approved a new round of election restrictions, including a provision that would bar election clerks from sending unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters. Biden won the state by more than 154,000 votes.

“Michigan elections are vulnerable,” Republican state Rep. Andrew Beeler said during the House’s floor debate, the Detroit Free Press reported.
The measures, however, face a certain veto from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. So, Republican activists are circulating petitions that would allow them to take advantage of an unusual quirk in Michigan law. If a petition for changes to the law is signed by 340,047 people, all that’s required to implement those changes is the state legislature’s approval — sweeping past Whitmer and her veto pen, as CNN’s Eric Bradner recently wrote.

This all comes ahead of November, when the stakes are high for both political parties.

The President’s party typically loses ground in midterm elections, and control of the House and Senate could flip from Democrats to Republicans. In addition, 36 governors’ seats are on the ballot this year.

Democrats tackle a different kind of election problem

Lawmakers in Washington and in Colorado are looking to tackle what they say is a different threat to elections: internal sabotage.

Last Wednesday, several US House Democrats fired off a letter to the Department of Justice, calling on the agency to tackle the “insider threats” that they say some candidates for state and local elections pose to the election system.

The lawmakers asked the DOJ to take specific actions, such as helping investigate insider threats and deploying nonpartisan election monitors.

Just days before, Democrats in Colorado introduced legislation aimed at addressing similar concerns. The measure would prohibit unauthorized imaging of equipment, increase security for voting machines and make it a felony to grant unauthorized access to equipment or publish passwords online.

The legislation also would disqualify a person from running an election if they’ve been convicted of an election offense or of treason, insurrection, sedition or conspiracy to overthrow the government.

Watchdog groups have sounded alarms for months now about candidates who have disputed the results of the 2020 election running for election offices.

At least 22 candidates who have questioned Biden’s victory are running for secretary of state jobs in 18 states, according to States United Action, a nonpartisan group tracking the contests.

Texas voter ID law

We’ve touched on this in a previous newsletter, but a new analysis by The Associated Press underscores just how much the new voter ID law hurt voters in Texas’ March primary.

About 23,000 or about 13% of voters had their mail-in ballots discarded and uncounted, according to the analysis of ballot rejections in 187 of 254 counties.

Election officials tossed most of the ballots because they failed to meet the identification requirements of the new law, commonly known as Senate Bill 1.

Harris County, which includes Houston, had a rejection rate of 19%.

Voting rights advocates told a congressional committee last week that the new law is causing mass disenfranchisement, especially among voters of color. They warn of even higher rejection rates this fall.

“Since the 2022 Texas Primary was a low turnout election, Texans have not yet experienced the full impact of Texas Senate Bill 1,” Hani Mirza of the Texas Civil Rights Project said in written testimony before an elections subcommittee last week. “Texans should brace for the full force of Texas Senate Bill 1 during the 2022 midterm election in November.”

Under the new law, voters who cast their ballot by mail must include either their state ID number or last four digits of their Social Security number on their mail-in ballot. This identification number must match one of the numbers on the voter’s registration record. Voters must also write down those numbers again on the inside flap of the envelopes when they return their ballot.

Officials in the Texas Secretary of State’s office say they plan to focus more on educating Texans on the new mail-in rules.

“While in years past we have focused our voter education efforts on in-person ID requirements, this year we are also devoting a significant portion of our voter education campaign to enhancing awareness of the new mail-in ballot ID requirements,” spokesman Sam Taylor said in a statement following reports of high rejection rates.

You should read

  • A deep dive by The Washington Post into how a local election office in Georgia was taken over by 2020 election deniers.
  • Six experts on the future of democracy in The New York Times Magazine.
  • CNN’s interactive midterm election calendar that gives a rundown on all important dates to watch.



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