How New Voting Laws Fared On Super Tuesday

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A flurry of recently enacted voting and election laws were put to the test during yesterday’s Super Tuesday elections, and the results were a bit of a mixed bag.

Elections were held under Alabama’s recently enacted congressional map for the first time, and while the new, fair districts are a big win for voters, the new boundaries didn’t exactly go off without a hitch. 

The Associated Press reported that 6,593 voters in the state’s new 2nd Congressional District were sent postcards ahead of the election that stated they inaccurately lived in the 7th Congressional District. James Snipes, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Registrars, attributed the error to a “software glitch” that occurred when changes were made to account for the newly drawn districts. 

The 2nd Congressional District is now Alabama’s second majority-Black district, thanks to a set of lawsuits filed by Black voters and civil rights groups, who successfully argued the map diluted the voting strength of Black Alabamians. 

Snipes said that “[e]veryone who came to their precinct was able to vote for the correct candidates,” and added that 2,000 notices had already been sent to affected voters as of Tuesday evening, with 4,000 more being slated to go out today.

In Minnesota, a historic bill enacted last June immediately restored voting rights to over 50,000 individuals with previous felony convictions. The new law allows individuals on parole, probation or community release from a felony conviction to vote. Previously, Minnesota law permitted voting rights restoration after the completion of an entire sentence, which often included years- or decades-long periods of probation. 

JaNae’ Bates, interim co-executive director of ISAIAH, a group that helped push the pro-voting change, said that there was broad outreach to those who were newly eligible but acknowledged the difficulty of the effort, according to Public News Service. “Even though they are back in community with us — working, going to school, etc. — they’ve largely felt like they’ve been pushed out and have not often gotten to feel engaged,” she added.

Though it is yet unclear how many impacted individuals voted yesterday, Minnesota has same-day voter registration, meaning that even last-ditch efforts to inform voters could have made the difference. Last night, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) announced that the author of the law, Minnesota Rep. Cedrick Frazier (D), would be her guest at tomorrow’s State of the Union Address. 

At least one voter was able to take advantage of the new law yesterday. Antonio Williams, an advocate for the bill, cast his ballot in yesterday’s election thanks to the legislation. Williams was released from prison in 2020.

North Carolina also held its first presidential primary election under the state’s newly imposed voter ID law. The law passed years ago but had been blocked from going into effect. However, a decision last year by the newly-conservative North Carolina Supreme Court allowed the restriction to become law.

Voters seemed mostly able to handle the changes as North Carolina State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell pointed out: “Only about three out of every 10,000 voters had to vote a provisional ballot due to the photo ID requirement,” a strong sign that voters were aware of the changes. 

That’s a much different story than what happened during smaller, municipal elections late last year. A report from the group Democracy NC found that confusion over the law led to the inaccurate rejection of some ballots, and that some voters who should have received an ID exception form were not provided one. 

Some issues did pop up, including for a pair of voters who initially had trouble voting because the address on their IDs did not match the address on their voter registration records. According to North Carolina law, that should not have prevented the duo from casting their ballots, the Triad City Beat reported. The two were eventually able to vote. 

In Texas, an issue arose in the populous Democratic stronghold of Harris County, which had its election administrator position abolished last June by Texas Republicans. The responsibilities reverted back to the county clerk and county tax assessor. 

The county’s own district attorney, Kim Ogg, said that her partner with whom she shares an address inadvertently cast a ballot in Ogg’s name, which originally prevented the district attorney from casting a ballot. Though she was eventually able to vote, Ogg argued to CNN that the issue raised questions about who else it could have happened to, how it happened and how similar errors were tracked. 

Harris County Clerk Teneshia Hudspeth issued a statement blaming Ogg’s partner for the error, saying,“In this instance, the DA’s partner must not have noticed that the information was not hers and proceeded to sign in and vote under DA Ogg’s name.” Ogg contended that an election worker should have caught the mistake.

A multitude of other new voting and election laws were also tested in yesterday’s primary, though the immediate impact of those laws on yesterday’s election has not yet been determined. Those laws include a ban on drop boxes in Arkansas, North Carolina’s omnibus voter suppression law, 18 days of early in-person voting in Minnesota and California’s mandate of curbside voting at all in-person voting locations.

Read about North Carolina’s voter suppression law here.

Read about Minnesota’s pro-voting reforms here.

Read about the effort to enact a fair congressional map in Alabama here.