More than 100 new restrictive voting laws proposed across US since February

GOP-backed legislation aims to roll back or eliminate mail-in voting, impose voter ID laws and make it harder to vote

Alex Woodward
New York
Thursday 01 April 2021 20:00 BST
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At least 361 bills to restrict voting rights have been filed by Republican lawmakers in nearly every state, according to a new analysis from the Brennan Centre for Justice, which has tracked suppressive voting legislation across the US.

More than 100 of those bills were added to the centre’s list within the last month – a 43 per cent increase from February.

At least 55 bills in 24 states are moving through legislatures. Of those bills, 29 have passed at least one chamber of a state legislature, while 26 have been the subject of a committee hearing.

Five bills have already been signed into law, including a sweeping measure in Georgia, where Governor Brian Kemp and Republican state lawmakers have reduced the number of places where people can vote, barred elections officials from oversight, and criminalised giving out food and water to people waiting in voting lines, among other measures that make it harder to vote in the state.

Georgia lawmakers proposed 25 bills, while Texas officials have introduced 49 and Arizona is eyeing 23.

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Arizona has seven restrictive bills advancing through its state legislature, and New Hampshire has 10.

Most of the measures across the US are aimed at eliminating or rolling back access to absentee ballots and imposing voter ID requirements, the centre found.

Republicans have invoked “election integrity” and “restoring confidence” in elections to defend their bills.

Voting rights advocates and civil rights groups have argued that former president Donald Trump and his persistent lie that the election was stolen from him, along with his legal team’s attempts to overturn millions of Americans’ votes, have emboldened Republican state lawmakers to do what Mr Trump and his attorneys could not after his 2020 election loss.

State election officials across the US as well as officials from the US Department of Justice and FBI have all reported no evidence of significant election fraud, and bills offered up by Republicans – such as cutting down on early voting hours and limiting locations to turn in ballots – do not do anything to combat it.

Meanwhile, at least 843 bills in 47 states have proposed expanding ballot access, an increase of more than 100 since the centre’s February assessment.

At least 112 of those bills are moving through 31 state legislatures. Nine are awaiting their respective governor’s signatures.

The House of Representatives has also passed a massive elections bill, the White House-backed For The People Act, that if signed into law would be the largest piece of voting rights legislation since the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

That measure aims to standardise voting access at ballots in every state and territory, eliminate long-standing barriers to voting and allow candidates with smaller platforms to wield more political power, among other provisions. It would effectively nullify the state-level bills currently pending in legislatures.

But it faces a murky path in the US Senate, despite aggressive support from Democratic lawmakers and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has repeatedly said that “failure is not an option” when it comes to voting rights.

Under current Senate rules, the bill needs at least 10 GOP senators to join Democrats to clear the chamber’s 60-vote threshold for legislation.

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