New Study Tells Compelling Story of Support for Various Election and Voting Policies

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A new survey by Pew Research Center is shedding extensive light on the public support for numerous election policies that are impacting voting rights, elections and democracy. The report reveals an increasingly polarized public on key issues. Despite this, a majority of Americans approve of pro-voting policies and are against most of those that restrict voting.

The survey polls voters on 10 policies, ranging from felony rights restoration and voter roll removal to a national holiday for voting.

Pew asked adults questions about whether they support or oppose three restrictive voting policies: requiring all voters to show government-issued photo ID, banning community ballot collection — when groups collect completed ballots from a large number of voters in order to return them to official voting centers — and removing voters from registration lists if they have not recently voted or confirmed their registration. More than 80% of voters support requiring photo ID, while voters opposed the others by moderate margins — 50% of voters oppose  community ballot collection and 55% oppose voter roll removals.

Mass voter challenges have become somewhat of a Republican grassroots hobby in recent years. EagleAI, a computer program being pushed by former Trump lawyer Cleta Mitchell, claims to have the capability to generate thousands of challenges to voter eligibility “with a few clicks.” In Georgia, election vigilantes have taken advantage of the state’s 2021 voter suppression law that makes voter challenges easier. Jason Frazier, a Georgia voter who was an inspiration to EagleAI, challenged nearly 10,000 voters all by himself.

Last year in Washington, a group of conservative activists took the practice to the extreme, not only filing 28 challenges to voters’ eligibility in just a few months, but often going door-to-door to investigate the alleged illegal registrations in a practice some argued amounted to voter intimidation. 

A majority of voters support policies that expand voting rights.

These include:

  • Making early, in-person voting available for at least two weeks prior to Election Day (76%),
  • Establishing Election Day as a national holiday (72%),
  • Allowing people convicted of felonies to vote after serving their sentences (69%),
  • Permitting any voter to vote by mail (57%),
  • Automatically registering voters if they interact with a government agency (57%) and
  • Implementing Election Day voter registration (57%).

Hostility toward mail-in voting from GOP leaders has decimated support for the policy among Republican voters.

The biggest partisan divide over a voting policy surveyed by Pew came down to mail-in voting. Just 28% of Republicans support allowing anyone to vote by mail, compared to 84% of Democrats and 57% of independents.

That fact isn’t a surprise. Republicans, led by former President Donald Trump, have viciously and consistently attacked the practice, falsely claiming it is ripe for voter fraud and other outlandish conspiracies. Mail-in voting was, for a long time, not a partisan issue. In fact, white and older voters, who are both more likely than not to be Republican, were once its most loyal users. But since Trump and his allies have attacked the method, Republican support has cratered, 21-points down from 49% just four years ago.

The Republican Party’s hostile stance towards mail-in voting has gone beyond rhetoric and into courtrooms. Since 2021, the party has filed 23 lawsuits challenging mail-in voting laws, according to our case tracker. The significant drop in support for mail-in voting among Republicans poses a threat to the party — while Democrats continue to encourage their voters to vote early and by the method most convenient for them, Republican voters who distrust the method are limited to vote in person, and often only on Election Day. 

The Republican National Committee (RNC) seems to have realized the political consequences of its party’s suppressive acts — in 2022, the RNC launched the hypocritical “Bank Your Vote” initiative, which it has pushed ever since, to try to convince their own voters to vote early and by mail. 

Despite bipartisan consensus on some key issues, Republicans continue to abandon what their voters want — in the courts and legislatures.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to back pro-voting policies while Republicans are more likely than Democrats to approve of policies that restrict voting access. However, a majority of voters in both parties, along with independents, support two weeks of voting early in person, Election Day as a national holiday and rights restoration to those convicted of felonies who have served their sentences. 

Despite significant support for felony rights restoration and early voting, even among their own party, Republicans have been litigating and legislating to tighten laws surrounding the two policies. In January, Virginia Democrats blocked a Republican effort to drastically curb the state’s 45-day early voting period, and just last week in Delaware, a Republican lawsuit successfully convinced a court to strike down a law that provided for at least 10 days of early voting.

Meanwhile, Mississippi Republicans are actively defending the state’s Jim Crow-era law that imposes a lifetime ban on voting for individuals with certain felony convictions even after sentence completion. Nearly 11% of Mississippians are disenfranchised as a result of the egregious law. 

Last July, Tennessee’s Republican coordinator of elections instituted a significant change to the state’s felony rights restoration policy that made the process even more arduous. The decision was made as a result of yet another lawsuit where Republicans fought to protect felony disenfranchisement. Similar to Mississippi, just under 10% of the voting-age population in Tennessee are barred from voting due to a felony conviction.

Since 2018, Democratic opinions on voting policies have largely remained the same, while Republican opinions have changed more drastically.

The most significant change in Democratic opinion over the last six years has involved making Election Day a national holiday and requiring photo ID to vote — support is up 9% and 6% respectively. 

Republicans have similarly upped their support for making Election Day a national holiday by 9%, while they have increasingly opposed voter registration policies, including Election Day and automatic registration — Election Day registration is down by 10 points and automatic voter registration is down by 11 among Republicans, along with the more than 20-point drop in support for universal mail-in voting.

Pew’s study was conducted from Jan. 16 to Jan. 21, 2024 and surveyed 5,140 adults. The survey was weighted to be a representative sample of the U.S. for each category. Read the entire study here.