When has a state enacted a “new hurdle” to voting?

Dan links to an analysis from the Washington Post citing figures from the Voting Rights Lab about “18 states” that “enacted 35 laws with provisions that create new hurdles to vote.” The piece has some important depth-of-treatment looks at what’s happening in some states. But as with any effort to aggregate figures and present big numbers, I think there is less happening under the hood in other states.

Some of the things the Voting Rights Lab identifies are not laws. Take Michigan’s Senate Resolution 25, which is the sense of the Michigan Senate that Congress should not enact H.R. 1 (which, I assume, Congress will dutifully ignore), not a law.

Others are pretty minor and may not merit the label “Anti-Voter” as given them. Consider Nevada’s Senate Bill 84, which passed 20-0 (1 excused) and 40-0 (1 absent) in each chamber and raises the maximum size of precincts from 3000 to 5000 registered voters. As the sponsor the bill explained:

Testimony from the Clark County and Washoe County registrars of voters indicated that, in some cases, certain areas of their counties could accommodate precincts with more than 3,000 active registered voters–the current statutory maximum. Moreover, under the “vote center” model used by Nevada’s counties for the past few election cycles, assigning voters to a single polling location is no longer necessary, thereby allowing for larger precincts. The registrars further noted that being able to assign more voters into one precinct would be helpful in avoiding the splitting into multiple precincts of certain high-density population areas, such as larger apartment complexes or certain neighborhoods. Finally, it was noted that since the proposed increase sets forth a maximum number of active voters per precinct, jurisdictions such as rural counties could continue to create smaller precincts as needed, or leave existing precincts unchanged.

Is this an “Anti-Voter” bill, as labeled by the “Voting Rights Lab” website?

Another is Utah’s House Bill 197, which changes the date that voters may switch parties ahead of a primary from the end of the registration deadline period, to March 31. The sponsor of the bill explained they chose this date, which comes after the filing deadline (so voters know all the candidates) and after precinct caucuses, but it reduces “gamesmanship” of voters who switch parties very late in the process. The bill also does not apply to unaffiliated voters or new voters, only those who previously registered with a party and seek to switch very late. They can vote–they simply must vote in their previously-registered party’s primary.

I could go on elsewhere, but digging into the text of the bills reveals, I think, a much more nuanced portrait than reporting some aggregate number of “anti-voter” bills.

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