“Americans will find voting easier — or harder — depending where they live”


Voting in Michigan will be easier for many people this fall than it was four years ago. There will be nine days of early voting. All mail ballots will have prepaid return postage. And every community will have at least one drop box for absentee ballots because of a measure adopted by voters with the support of the state’s top Democrats.

Those casting ballots in North Carolina, where Republicans enjoy a veto-proof legislative majority, will see dramatic changes in the opposite direction. For the first time in a presidential election, voters there will have to show an ID. More votes are expected to be thrown out because of new absentee ballot return deadlines. And courts will soon decide whether to allow a law to go into effect that would reshape the state’s elections boards and could result in fewer early-voting sites.

The two states illustrate how much voting has changed since the last presidential election. But whether Americans will have an easier or harder time casting a ballot than they did in 2020 will depend on where they live and, often, whether Democrats or Republicans have been in charge.

“It’s really kind of a tale of two democracies,” said Liz Avore, a senior adviser at the Voting Rights Lab.

States across the partisan spectrum abruptly changed their voting policies in 2020 to provide more options at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Many eased the criteria for voting by mail, and some sentabsentee ballot or ballot applications to all voters. Election officials installed ballot drop boxes, set up curbside voting programs and in some cases extended the deadlines for returning absentee ballots.

Former president Donald Trump has baselessly accused Democrats of using the loosened rules to rig the 2020 vote, turning election policy into the object of hyperpolarized disagreement.

Particularly in swing states, Republicans have generally pushed for tighter laws, such as voter ID requirements and limits on mail-in voting, in the name of election integrity. Democrats have advocated eliminating barriers that could suppress voter participation, including by making rules forregistering to vote and casting ballots more flexible.

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