Since the start of this year, close to 400 anti-voting bills have been introduced in state legislatures throughout the country, many of which demonstrate the even more radical stance Republicans have taken on voting and elections in the past few years. From catch-all voter suppression bills to hostile local government takeovers, these Republican-enacted bills are emblematic of the party’s increasingly antagonistic stance toward voting.
Attacks on mail-in voting kept at a rapid pace.
Republicans maintained their focus on restricting mail-in voting, as they did following the 2020 election. Though this form of voting was once a widely accepted and heralded form of voting within both parties, it is now a solidly partisan issue. Predicated on baseless accusations of widespread voter fraud, Republican legislatures have passed a multitude of laws restricting drop boxes, ballot collection and mail-in voting at large.
Mississippi banned, and criminalized, submitting mail-in ballots on behalf of others with limited exceptions. Community ballot collection has long been a resource for swaths of voters, including rural, indigenous and older voters, who have difficulties dropping off their ballots. However, the method has been subject to an onslaught of attacks from Republicans, and multiple states have sought to stop the practice.
Going a step further, South Dakota and Arkansas outright banned the use of drop boxes. Despite their use as an easy and safe way to help voters cast their ballots, drop boxes have become such a point of political contention that states have banned them despite not having ever used them in the first place.
Ohio also implemented a law hampering mail-in voting in multiple ways: shortening the time voters have to send in, and correct, their ballots, making mail-in voting more costly for voters and burdening larger counties with a shortage of drop box locations.
Many bills cracked down on identification and residency requirements.
Despite strict ID laws decreasing turnout and disproportionately harming communities of color, Republicans have prioritized passing them in multiple states. Some even have tacked on residency requirements, which are similarly problematic and especially target college students.
Voters in Idaho were hit with a double whammy when the state passed a bill tightening both ID and residency requirements. Even worse, the state separately removed student IDs from the list of acceptable identification.
Wyoming, Nebraska and Ohio all enacted bills adding new ID requirements, and South Dakota passed a residency requirement so strict that any voter moving to the state within 45 days of an election is effectively barred from voting there.
New bans on private funding for election administration exacerbated election problems.
Banning the private funding of election administration is a trend that has become increasingly common in red states throughout the country. Since the 2020 election, where outside funding was critical to helping election workers adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, Republicans have claimed the grants unfairly help Democrats.
Despite no evidence to support their claim, many states — including Arkansas, Idaho, Montana and Oklahoma — outlawed private grants and donations for election administration. With our elections already underfunded, laws like these will only make election administration more difficult.
Georgia decided to go even more extreme. Despite already enacting a ban on private grants for election administration, the state passed a bill that makes giving such grants a felony crime. The bill also further extended the ban to any “county or municipal government, government employee, or election official.”
Republican legislatures initiated power grabs against blue cities.
In one of the newer anti-democratic trends set forth by Republicans, state legislatures in red states have begun brazenly stripping power and control away from Democratic strongholds.
In Tennessee, a bill cut Nashville’s Metro Council membership in half. As the legislative authority of Nashville and the diverse Davidson County, the council provides the ability for local leaders to best run their community and adequately represent its citizens. Legislators warned the changes will disrupt this benefit. Despite lawmakers’ efforts to diminish Nashville’s power, a Tennessee court has temporarily blocked the law from taking effect.
In Mississippi, the state enacted a bill creating a new, entirely unelected court system in the state capital of Jackson that is unrepresentative of the city and dwindles down Black political power. The fate of this undemocratic bill is uncertain as litigation continues.
And in Texas, the Republican Legislature has launched a full-scale attack on the largest county in the state: Democratic-controlled Harris County. Two bills have been signed into law that radically reshape the power structure within the county. Senate Bill 1750 abolishes the election administrator position in the county and Senate Bill 1933 gives the secretary of state the power to take over elections for the county. Harris County has indicated its intention to sue over both of these targeted laws.
Criminalizing elections was also on Republican legislatures’ agenda.
Despite the United States having an extensive history of free and fair elections, legislators nationwide have been working to criminalize our elections and voting process under the unfounded guise of rooting out electoral fraud. Increased fines and jail sentences for voting-related offenses serve to suppress and confuse voters much more than they do protect our electoral system, yet punishments have only grown steeper.
Florida put two laws criminalizing its election process on the books. Enacted in May, Senate Bill 7050 is a comprehensive election bill that includes a provision allowing for fines of up to $250,000 on third-party voter registration organizations. The other enacted law, Senate Bill 4B, enables statewide prosecutors to prosecute election crimes. This law came after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) ordered local prosecutors to arrest 20 formerly incarcerated individuals for voting illegally, despite many of them being told they were eligible to vote.
Arkansas also enacted a pair of bills criminalizing their elections. House Bill 1513 establishes an “Election Integrity Unit” within the attorney general’s office and House Bill 1411 makes it a crime for an election official to send out a mail-in ballot application unsolicited.
The range of laws enacted by Republicans this year make it clear that Republican attacks on democracy are only growing more radical.