States routinely make adjustments in their voting laws — some subtle, some dramatic. But experts have never seen an explosion of legislation like that which followed the 2020 presidential election, when more than 3,600 election bills were introduced, according to the Voting Rights Lab, which tracks the legislation.
Liz Avore, senior adviser to the group, said 22 states in the last couple of years expanded access to the ballot, 10 created new restrictions and five expanded access in some ways while creating new barriers in others. This, she said, has created a divide in the U.S. in which “your ZIP code determines your access to our democracy.”
That divide seems likely to grow next year. Legislatures won’t convene until January at the earliest, so it’s unclear how many bills are being drafted and on which subjects. But Texas, where the Legislature meets only once every two years and lawmakers can “pre-file” drafts of legislation for the upcoming session, offers a preview.
The Associated Press has identified nearly 100 election-related legislative proposals already filed in the state, both to increase access to the ballot box and to further restrict it. This includes one that would allow the state’s top lawyer to assign a prosecutor focused on election crimes, testing the boundaries of a court ruling earlier this year that said the attorney general did not have the authority to prosecute election crimes.
Another would assign a group of peace officers to serve as election marshals who investigate claims of election-related missteps. That would follow the lead of Florida, where officers in a special unit assigned to elections have already made a handful of arrests — including of people who mistakenly thought they were eligible to vote under a 2018 constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to some felons. Critics have labeled the unit a political tool of the governor.