More than half of U.S. states have lowered somebarriers to voting since the 2020 election, making permanent practices that helped produce record voter turnout during the coronavirus pandemic — a striking countertrend to the passage of new restrictions in key Republican-controlled states this year.
The newly enacted laws in states from Vermont to California expand access to the voting process on a number of fronts, such as offering more early and mail voting options, protecting mail ballots from being improperly rejected and making it easier to register to vote.
Some states restored voting rights to people with past felony convictions or expanded options for voters with disabilities, both long-standing priorities among advocates. And in Virginia, a new law requires localities to receive preapproval or feedback on voting changesas a shield against racial discrimination, a first for states after the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the federal Voting Rights Act in 2013.ADVERTISING
The push to make voting easier aroundthe country comes even as Republicans have embraced voting restrictions in GOP-controlled states such as Georgia, Florida and Iowa. Some states have passed laws that make some elements of voting easier and others harder, leading to mixed effects.
But the overall result is a deepening divide in ballot access depending on where voters live — one shaped by how lawmakers have reacted to both the pandemic and former president Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was tainted by massive fraud.
“There’s a fault line that’s developing between states working to strengthen our democracy and states actively restricting it,” said Liz Avore, vice president for law and policy with thenonpartisan Voting Rights Lab, which tracks developments in state election law and analyzed this year’s legislative action in a report last week.“It is stark when you look at the map … That division is really remarkable.”