2019 Voting Legislation

State-by-State Voting Legislation Analysis
By Chris deLaubenfels, Director of Policy and Communications, Let America Vote

While legislative action to protect voting rights and promote democracy has stalled at the national level in large part due to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, many states have taken action to implement measures to make elections more fair and accessible, including implementing automatic voter registration, establishing vote-by-mail, and fighting gerrymandering. Nevertheless, GOP state legislatures are still trying to suppress the vote across the country to try and rig elections in their favor. This analysis gives you a look into what state legislatures did this past legislative session  to advocate for–or unfortunately all too often try to strip away–voting rights.


Since the Supreme Court struck down a crucial provision of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Alabama has routinely made voting more difficult throughout the state. Alabama has used several tactics to suppress the vote, including: enforcing extreme voter ID laws; closing drivers’ license offices in predominantly black neighborhoods; pushing for a proof-of-citizenship requirement to register to vote; closing polling places; restricting the abilities of get-out-the-vote organizations; purged voter rolls; and refusing to inform the public about the re-enfranchisement of individuals with felony records.

During this legislative session, the GOP-led state legislature stonewalled legislation that would address barriers to voting. Democratic legislators introduced bills to establish same-day voter registration, establish automatic voter registration, establish early voting, establish no-excuse absentee voting, expand access to voting to persons who are incarcerated, remove restrictions on re-enfranchising individuals who lost their right to vote based on a criminal conviction, and allow individuals convicted of certain crimes of moral turpitude to vote. None of these pro-democracy bills were given a floor vote. A modest bill that expands absentee voting and a bill allowing permanently disabled voters to automatically receive absentee ballots before elections were passed this term.

However, the Republican controlled House passed legislation to “maintain voter registration database.” That might sound harmless, but there are concerns that the bill may ultimately lead to voting roll purges. Every Democrat present voted against the bill.

Alabama GOP legislators have also pushed forward a bill to clarify that only U.S. citizens have the right to vote in Alabama to try and intimidate minorities into staying away from the ballot box. The Alabama Constitution currently states “Every citizen of the United States” meeting certain requirements shall be able to vote.” The proposed amendment would change the constitution to read, “Only a citizen of the United States…” Democratic state Rep. Kirk Hatcher noted that the bill is unnecessary because the constitution already restricts voting to US citizens. However, the bill advocates argue that the amendment is needed because some cities around the country have allowed non-citizens to vote in local elections. It appears that Alabama Republican legislators -- with the help of secret Republican donors -- are using bogeymen, non-citizen voters to strike fear in Alabama voters. Alabama voters will decide on the issue in the 2020 election.

Finally, Republican Senator Jim McClendon proposed an amendment to the Alabama Constitution that would exempt redistricting bills from being read in full prior to passage. Any guesses why a GOP legislator is attempting to make the redistricting process less transparent?

But not all of the voting news coming out of Alabama is bleak. In May the Southern Poverty Law Center announced that they were launching a legal team specifically dedicated to protecting voting rights. The SPLC Voting Rights Team will challenge laws and practices that suppress the votes of minorities, young voters, and voters with disabilities, or dilute their political power through gerrymandering.


Alaska has put in place some procedures that make voting more accessible for many of its residents, such as early voting and no-excuse absentee voting. Yet more can be done to ensure that Native Alaskans have access to voting. In Alaska, the Native-eligible voter population is over 17%. Alaska Native voters face unique obstacles to voting, which has led to Alaska Native registered voters turning out at five to fourteen percent below other racial and ethnic groups. In March 2019, the Native American Voting Rights Act of 2019 was introduced through bicameral legislation in the U.S Congress. This legislation would remove barriers for indigenous people when registering to vote and would expand opportunities for participation in the voting process. Alaska’s representatives at the state and federal level should push for voting protections for Native Alaskans.

This legislative session, Republican Senator Mike Shower introduced legislation to purportedly address election integrity. However, the bill would eliminate automatic voter registration for individuals who apply for Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend and instead would require individuals to fill out more paperwork in order to register. Any measure to make it harder to register to vote is a threat to voter participation.

Democratic Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins introduced a bill (HB 150) that would bring vote-by-mail to Alaska. Vote-by-mail has grown in popularity across the country and makes voting more accessible to eligible voters. Democratic legislators also introduced bills (SB 105, HB 115) to expand absentee voting. These bills did not advance this session, but we hope they will gain support in the future.

Finally, Republican Senator Jim McClendon proposed an amendment to the Alabama Constitution that would exempt redistricting bills from being read in full prior to passage. Any guesses why a GOP legislator is attempting to make the redistricting process less transparent?

Finally, Alaska’s November 2018 state elections showed why every vote matters. The one-vote win by Republican Bart Lebon in an Alaska state House race ultimately led to the GOP controlling the House, Senate, and governor’s office. The election came down to whether the voting rights of an individual with a felony record had been restored. It turned out the voter had been automatically registered to vote when he applied for his Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend. Automatic registration matters, re-enfranchisement matters, and every vote matters.


After losing a hotly contested U.S. Senate race in 2018, Republican state legislators introduced a slew of bills that would suppress the vote across Arizona. The restrictive measures include: a bill (HB 2616) that would outlaw paying people to help register voters as they had been before; a bill (SB 1046) requiring individuals who receive ballots by mail to return the ballot through the mail, rather than return it to voting centers if they want; and a bill (SB 1188) to remove voters from the permanent early voting just for not voting (the Arizona Secretary of State estimated that 200,000 voters would be purged under this bill). 

Republicans in the Arizona House also introduced restrictive voting legislation that sought to eliminate the permanent early voting list altogether (HB 2202) and cancel the voter registration of voters who haven’t recently cast a ballot (HB 2130). 

Unfortunately, a bill (SB 1090) that limits early voting at emergency centers and a bill (SB 1072) that requires voters to show specific identification at early voting sites passed this term. We can be sure the Arizona GOP will continue to introduce bills that make it harder for citizens to vote in the terms ahead.

Moreover, bills that would have improved voting rights, including enacting automatic voter registration (SB 1521), early voting expansion (SB 1427), cutting down wait time at polling places (SB 1200), enacting same-day voter registration (HB 2629), lowering the voting age to 16 years (SCR 1007), and expanding voting centers (HB 2211) did not receive roll call votes. Democrats also proposed legislation (SB 1377) to automatically restore voting rights to justice impacted individuals after they have completed probation or been absolutely discharged from imprisonment. A coalition of Democratic legislators also proposed an amendment to the Arizona Constitution (HCR 2021) that emphasizes that the right to vote is a fundamental right, prevents restrictions on the right, and restores voting rights to individuals convicted of felonies. 

Finally, we are cautiously optimistic about an Arizona election integrity unit that was announced this May. The Arizona Attorney General office is set to receive $530,000 for a new voter fraud unit. A spokesperson for the Arizona Republican AG Mark Brnovich has stated that unit will not seek to find alleged voter fraud, but instead will debunk voter fraud allegations. AG Brnovich’s spokesperson stated: “The notion that there is fraud, pervasive fraud, in our elections is damaging to the collective confidence of the public in our elections and in our public institutions.” Another spokesperson has referred to the unit as the “myth busters of election fraud claims.Widespread voter fraud is a myth, and we hope the election integrity unit will promote open, fair elections.


In the 2018 election, Arkansas voters unfortunately passed a voter ID law with 80% of the vote. This session, Arkansas Republicans have put up another unnecessary barrier to voting by passing a law (HB 1388) requiring certain registered voters to prove that they are United States citizens, which is just a suppression tactic. Republican legislators also introduced a bill to restrict early voting, but that measure failed. 

Arkansas Republican legislators have also pushed to restrict citizen ballot initiatives, largely in response to Arkansas voters raising the minimum wage in 2018. 

Democratic state Representative Charles Blake introduced the “Voter Integrity and Security Act,” (HB 1004) which would establish automatic voter registration at the DMV. Rep. Blake introduced a similar bill in 2017, but Arkansas’s GOP-led Secretary of State office inexplicably found the $42,000 cost to be too expensive. While Rep. Blake was able to bring the cost of the Voter Integrity and Security act to $0, the bill still did not pass. 

Another pro-democracy bill introduced by Democratic legislators (SB 572), that would have allowed voter registration and ballot access to eligible persons incarcerated in county jails, failed.


President Trump has come up with sweeping lies for why he lost the popular vote in 2016, including falsely claiming mass voter fraud in California. Widespread voter fraud has repeatedly been debunked as a myth. Indeed, as the ACLU has made clear, lack of voter participation, not voter fraud, has been the real problem in California elections. Fortunately, in 2019, California Democrats were able to push for several measures to make elections fairer and more accessible.

A number of pro-voting measures have advanced this session, including establishing vote-by-mail voter centers on college campuses (AB 59), updating vote-by-mail (AB 49), promoting student voter awareness and engagement (AB 963), and expanding voter registration at high schools (AB 773). California Democrats also introduced legislation (AB 849, SB 139) to prevent local gerrymandering

Thanks to a strong push from California Secretary of State Alex Padilla--a voting rights champion and member of the Let America Vote Board of Advisors--voting rights advancements have also been made in the vote restoration realm. California Democrats have advanced measures (ACA 6, AB 646) that would restore voting rights to every person on parole in California. The Free the Vote Act seeks to restore voting rights to citizens who are in the community and paying taxes without the ability to vote. Separate legislation (AB 787) would also increase access to voting by requiring jails to allow organizations to conduct in-person voter registration activities, including vote-by-mail applications, and update state law to facilitate identifying eligible voters when they are released from imprisonment or parole. All eligible citizens should have the right to vote, and re-enfranchising parolees is a good first step.

California Republicans did not stop their efforts to suppress the vote, however, as they introduced legislation (SB 57) that would eliminate automatic voter registration at DMVs and instead require individuals to affirmatively opt-in to become registered or pre-registered. The legislation did not advance.


In November 2018, Coloradans elected Jena Griswold, a Let America Vote-supported voting rights champion, as Secretary of State. That election has led to major voting rights successes for Colorado in 2019.

In a big win for making registration more accessible, Colorado expanded automatic voter registration (SB 235). Prior to this bill’s passage, automatic voter registration was implemented administratively through the DMV. Sec. Griswold was a major proponent of the legislation. Automatic voter registration has been shown to universally expand voter registration.

Colorado Democrats also passed a significant measure (HB 1266) that restores voting rights to individuals on parole. This is an important step to ensure that all citizens’ right to vote is protected.

Colorado Democrats also passed a comprehensive voting bill (HB 1278) to improve registration and voting accessibility for Native Americans and students, expand voting hours, increase polling places, and allow 17 year olds to vote in primaries if they will be 18 years of age for general elections. Another bill (SB 202) introduced by Colorado Democrats was enacted to improve voting access for voters with disabilities.

Colorado Republicans have not completely given up their fight to suppress votes, however. Republican state Rep. Patrick Neville introduced legislation (HB 1156) to require individuals to go through a bureaucratic process to prove citizenship when registering. This bad bill failed. Requiring more red tape to prove citizenship is an unnecessary barrier to registering and voting.

Colorado will be a key state in taking back the U.S. Senate in 2020. Democrats need to win the Senate in order to protect voting rights nationwide. 

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In 2019, Democratic lawmakers in Connecticut pushed for legislation that would make elections fairer and more accessible. Unfortunately, the Connecticut GOP has thwarted every Democratic attempt to expand voting rights.

Connecticut is now one of 11 states without any early voting. Democratic legislators tried to remedy that restrictive voting practice by passing an early voting bill (HRJ 161). However, a constitutional amendment is required to enact early voting, and Connecticut Democrats did not garner enough votes to put the issue on the ballot in 2020. This early voting bill must be passed in the next session in order to make it onto the 2022 ballot. Early voting is not just about making voting more accessible, it gives the elderly, disabled, working class, and others a realistic opportunity to vote. Similarly, a bill to amend the Connecticut Constitution (SJR 27) to permit no excuse absentee voting failed to advance. 

Secretary of State Denise Merrill, a Let America Vote Board of Advisors member, led the fight to pass legislation (HB 7160) to codify automatic voter registration (AVR) in Connecticut, but the bill did not pass. In 2016, Secretary Merrill administratively implemented AVR at Connecticut DMVs, but this bill would have codified the existing system and expanded AVR to higher education offices and other social services agencies. There have been widespread calls for AVR in Connecticut, and we hope this legislation will move forward in the next session. 

Democratic bills that would have extended same day voter registration (HB 5818, HB 6045, SB 1046) also did not advance. Other measures that would have made voting more accessible and fairer also failed to advance this session due to Republican opposition, including: giving voters time off on Election Day to vote (SB 358), requiring housing authorities to provide voter registration application to tenants (HB 5844), and allowing polling places on college campuses (SB 266).

Connecticut Republicans also blocked an array of legislation that would have restored voting rights or made voting fairer and more accessible for justice impacted individuals. One Democratic bill (HB 7213) would have restored voting rights to all formerly incarcerated people regardless of whether they owe fines or are on parole. Separate Senate bills that failed to advance would have re-enfranchised parolees (SB 25) and would have restored voting rights to formerly incarcerated individuals without requiring them to pay fines first (SB 22). Even a Democratic bill that would have informed formerly incarcerated individuals of their right to vote upon release (HB 5636) failed due to Republican opposition. 

Finally, a more comprehensive bill (SB 53) that would have restored voting rights to all incarcerated individuals also failed this session. One of the bill’s sponsors, state Sen. Gary Winfield, explained the importance of SB 53 powerfully and succinctly: “Voting is a fundamental right of every American and we should not be in the business of limiting it for our citizens who are incarcerated. While a person may be incarcerated they do not lose all of their rights during this time and the right to vote upholds all other rights.”

Yet on the voter suppression side of the legislative aisle, Republicans attempted to pass a bill (HB 6048, SB 268) that would make it harder for voters to register on Election Day. One Republican legislator introduced a bill that would eliminate same day registration entirely (HJR 41

We need to turn out to the polls in 2020 to ensure Connecticut Democrats are able to push for voting rights without Republican obstruction.

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This legislative session brought good news in Delaware voting rights. Democratic legislation (HB 38) that establishes early voting came into law. Before the legislation, Delaware was one of only 12 states that did not have early voting of any kind. Early voting in Delaware will begin in 2022. Establishing early voting is an important step in the right direction to make voting fairer and more accessible. However, Delaware Republicans were able to thwart other pro-democracy measures this session. A Democratic bill (HB 73) that sought to amend the Delaware Constitution to permit no-excuse absentee voting failed. Delaware Democrats also tried to pass legislation (HB 175) that would establish vote-by-mail in the state, but the bill did not advance. Finally, a Democratic bill (HB 39) to establish same-day voter registration also fell short due to Republican opposition. Studies have shown that states that enact vote-by-mail have increased voter turnout. Constituents should push for these measures in the next legislative session.

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Florida voters took a leap forward for voting rights last November in passing Amendment 4. Roughly 65% of Floridians voted to restore voting rights to individuals who had been convicted of felonies once their sentence was complete. In a complete rebuke to Florida voters, Florida Republicans passed legislation (SB 7066) to require individuals with felony records to pay all fees and fines before being able to vote. As Let America Vote Board of Advisors member and Florida state Sen. Janet Cruz explains, the bill places an unconstitutional, racist poll tax on eligible Florida voters, and might prevent one-million Floridians from voting. This is disgusting, Jim Crow-era voter suppression by the Florida GOP. 

Luckily, the ACLU, the ACLU of Florida, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Foundation, and the Brennan Center have filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the poll tax

Furthermore, an amendment to SB 7066 introduced another GOP voter suppression weapon. The amendment requires “sufficient nonpermitted parking” at early voting sites. This sounds reasonable, but in practice will prevent most college and university campuses from hosting early voting centers, suppressing the voting rights of young voters. In 2018, 60,000 votes were cast on Florida’s college campuses. A federal lawsuit has also been filed to challenge the legality of the parking restriction portion of the law. Lastly, SB 7066 also restricts the absentee ballot application deadline. Overall, SB 7066 is a sweeping bill intended to suppress the vote of Floridians, and is one of the greatest affronts to democracy in 2019.

Florida Republicans also tried to pass legislation (HB 7101) to restrict Floridians ability to vote-by-mail. The bill did not pass this session. The bill would prohibit election supervisors from mailing out vote-by-mail ballots less than eight days before an election and limit the number of days that voters could request a vote-by-mail ballot to ten days before Election Day. This measure could suppress the vote of tens of thousands of Floridians

Florida Democrats proposed several pro-voting-rights bills, but all were thwarted by Republicans. Democratic legislation to enact automatic voter registration (SB 1760) did not advance. And legislation (HB 1365, SB 1802) to establish same-day registration, make Election Day a paid holiday, expand vote-by-mail/absentee voting, and to expand the ability to cast a provisional ballot (SB 1386) were all defeated by Republicans.

After Amendment 4 passed in 2018, it seemed like a new day for voting rights had begun. Yet this term the Florida GOP has defied their constituents and gone back to their voter suppression ways.

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2018 was an awful year for voting rights in Georgia. Then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp used the powers of his office to help win the governor’s race. If it weren’t for Kemp’s voter suppression tactics, Stacey Abrams--voting rights champion and member of the Let America Vote Board of Advisors--would be Georgia’s governor. Kemp purged voting roles, closed polling places, restricted voter registrations, and mishandled absentee ballots in order to tip the gubernatorial race in his favor. Kemp made a mockery of democratic principles. 

In the shadow of the 2018 election, Fair Fight Action, a voting rights organization founded by Abrams, filed suit against Georgia’s board of elections and secretary of state. The lawsuit challenges the Georgia GOP’s voter suppression tactics. The lawsuit argues that Georgia’s vote suppression violates the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and the Help America Vote Act. The lawsuit ties civil rights to voting rights as the voter suppression in Georgia disproportionately affects voters of color

In reaction to Gov. Kemp’s voter suppression, the Georgia legislature passed a bill that addresses some of the undemocratic tactics employed in 2018. The omnibus election bill (HB 316) includes improvements to Georgia’s “no match, no vote” policy, voter purges, absentee voting, provisional voting, and voting for people with disabilities. The fact that the Georgia legislature actually worked together to pass the bill proves Stacey Abrams’ point about Kemp’s voter suppression to steal the governor’s race. HB 316 should also make voter registration more accessible

Yet other bills proposed by Democratic legislators that would expand voting rights did not advance this session. Georgia Democrats introduced the Georgia Voting Rights Act (HB 283) that would establish same-day registration, improve voting equipment, expand the ability to vote on Election Day for workers, and establish the Georgia voting rights commission, which would handle Georgia’s redistricting and would provide oversight on voting rights-related issues. Democratic legislators introduced several other bills that would have made elections fairer and more accessible, including: establishing vote-by-mail (HB 57); establishing independent redistricting commissions (SR 52, HR 369); lowering the voting age to 17 (HR 345); providing same day registration (HB 252), expanding voting assistance for voters with disabilities (HB 251); making voter registration more efficient (HB 250); making registering to vote fairer and more accessible (HB 522), expanding automatic voter registration (HB 176), and allowing voters to vote in any precinct within their county (HB 117).

We can be sure that the Georgia GOP will continue to attempt to suppress the vote in Georgia leading up to 2020. One way that Georgia may seek to disenfranchise more black voters is to use Jim Crow-era “moral turpitude” laws. We need to fight back against all of these voter suppression tactics!

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In 2016, Hawaii had the lowest turnout of any state in the county and did not have laws that made voting accessible. In an important step in the right direction, this session Hawaii joined Colorado, Oregon, and Washington as the fourth state to enact vote-by-mail (HB 1248). Vote-by-mail has been shown to increase voter participation, which is crucial in making Hawaii’s elections more fair and free. Vote-by-mail will take effect in 2020. 

Hawaii also passed legislation (HB 168) to make voting more accessible for individuals with special needs by allowing them to receive their ballots electronically.

While these measures should improve voter turnout, more can still be done in Hawaii. While Democrats control the governor’s office, state House, and state Senate, a number of bills that would increase voter participation did not advance this session. Those proposed measures include allowing eligible incarcerated individuals to vote (SB 1503), enacting automatic voter registration (SB 412, SB 116, HB 1203), increasing absentee ballot accessibility (SB 963), making voter registration easier for high school students (HB 1545), and expanding the vote to 16 year olds in state elections (HB 1280).

We hope Hawaii legislators will push these initiatives forward in the next session in order to improve Hawaii’s voter turnout and make elections more democratic.

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The spring 2019 session in Idaho was relatively quiet in the voting rights sphere. One notable bill was almost passed that would have restricted Idaho’s constitutional right for citizens to introduce ballot initiatives. That legislation (SB 1159) was introduced by GOP legislators after Idaho voters passed Medicaid Expansion through a ballot initiative. Idaho’s GOP governor vetoed the bill, but said he supports the goal of the legislation. Restricting citizen ballot initiatives takes power away from voters and is undemocratic.

A Democratic legislator introduced legislation (HB 49) that would have brought automatic voter registration to Idaho, but the bill did not advance. We hope automatic voter registration will move forward in Idaho’s next session.

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Democratic legislators in Illinois were able to pass legislation that expands voter access and education in Illinois jails. SB 2090, which Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law, directs county jails and election officials to establish procedures to allow people who are detained to vote. The bill also establishes measures to inform individuals after release from prison about their right to vote and provides individuals with a voter registration application. Illinois also passed legislation (HB 2541) to establish a non-partisan civics peer education program for citizens discharged from custody to educate them on the voting process, government, and current affairs.

In a statement on signing the legislation, Gov. Pritzker said “It’s a new day in Illinois – one where we not only recognize the sanctity of the vote but commit to doing everything we can to invite everyone who is eligible to fully participate. In Illinois, we understand that every vote matters and every vote counts. Illinois will continue to stand strong, even as our country takes a dangerous turn toward deeper disenfranchisement of minority communities. Especially as the Voting Rights Act remains gutted, especially as jurisdictions across the nation purge voter rolls and restrict registrations in college towns and communities of color, here in Illinois, we’ll do our best to live up to the ideals of our democracy.” The legislation is a big win for making voting more accessible

Democrats also introduced other measures that would improve voting rights in Illinois, including bills to expand the early voting period (SB 1253), establish a permanent vote-by-mail list (HB 3615), pay for return postage for vote-by-mail ballots (SB 1637, HB 3429), expand registration to 16- and 17-year old voters, and lower the voting age to 17 years (HJRCA 28). But none of those bills moved forward this session.

At the same time, Illinois Republicans were trying their best to make it harder for voters to vote. GOP legislators introduced restrictive voter ID bills (HB 2995, HB 1493, HB 243) that would suppress the vote in Illinois. Fortunately, the legislation did not pass. 

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Indiana suffers from one of the lowest voter turnouts in the entire country. However, instead of looking for ways to raise voter turnout, Indiana Republicans are looking for ways to further restrict voting rights for their voters. 

Indiana Republicans enacted a law (SB 560) that legalizes voter suppression by restricting the ability of state courts to extend polling place hours. In certain polling places in 2018, Indiana counties closed polls just hours into Election Day. The GOP also passed a bill (HB 1311) to restrict the number of days Indiana voters have to return their absentee ballots from eight days before an election to twelve days. As one Indiana Dem legislator stated in response to HB 1311: “I don’t understand how we are eliminating days for people to vote. We want people to exercise their right to vote, and we want to make it as easy as we can for them to vote.” Indiana Democrats introduced amendments to HB 1311 that would have pushed back against the GOP voter suppression, including no excuse absentee voting, but the amendment failed.

Voter suppression was not just happening at the state level in Indiana, but county clerks were also involved. Tippecanoe County Clerk Julie Roush, a Republican, recently announced that Purdue student IDs, which have been used in local elections since 2006, would not be valid at the polls. Roush’s new policy would disenfranchise hundreds of student voters. 

Democrats in Indiana introduced a number of measures that would expand voting rights in Indiana, but those attempts failed. Democrats introduced legislation that would establish same day registration and extend poll times (HB 1256, SB 32), no excuse absentee voting (SB 86), automatic voter registration (SB 349), and vote-by-mail (HB 1504). All of these bills would have improved voter registration and participation, but all of these bills failed because of Republican opposition. Hoosier voters deserve better.

On the gerrymandering front, there has been some bipartisan movement to establish an independent redistricting commission. One bill that would create an independent redistricting commission (SB 105) passed the state Senate, but the bill did not advance. With redistricting occuring in 2021, the Indiana legislature should work to create an independent redistricting commission in the next session.

In good news, Indiana was able to expand election security (SB 570, SB 405, SB 558), which is crucial in light of Russia’s attacks on our democracy. However, Democratic bill (SB 588) that would have required paper ballots in addition to electronic ballots did not advance. Paper ballots are important for election security.

Indiana voters also received a voting rights victory in September when a federal appeals court ruled that Indiana could not kick voters off voting rolls without warning. The law at issue was passed in 2017 and allowed election officials to cancel a voter’s registration without notifying them. The Seventh Circuit Chief Judge Diane Wood found that “[t]he only way to know whether voters want to cancel their registration is to ask them.” 

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For a state that prides itself for its prominent role in our democracy, Iowa has recently passed increasingly anti-democratic voting laws. 

One bill considered by the Iowa legislature this session included a number of measures that would make voting harder for Iowans. Iowa HF 692 initially was a bipartisan bill to clarify an issue regarding absentee ballots. After passing the Iowa House unanimously, the Senate GOP included horribly restrictive voter suppression policies. Those measures included restricting absentee voting; banning public universities from serving as early polling places; requiring that local election officials would match signatures on absentee ballots to documents voters signed years before; closing polls early; asking graduating Iowa college students if they plan to remain in Iowa after graduation and, if they plan to leave, removing them from the voter registration rolls even if they are eligible to vote (SF 575); and moving any active voter who misses a presidential election to inactive status, which is one step to purging them from voter rolls. After successful pushback from grassroots voting rights activists, Iowa Republicans eventually removed all of these measures from the bill. Defeating those reprehensible voter suppression measures is a big win for democracy in Iowa.

While Iowa Republicans were trying to make it harder for Iowans to vote, Iowa Democrats attempted to tackle voter suppression laws that had recently been implemented by the GOP. In recent years, Iowa Republicans passed a voter ID law that also repealed straight-ticket voting (banning straight ticket voting has been shown to suppress the vote and discriminate against minority voters). This session, Iowa Democrats introduced legislation (HF 129) that would repeal the voter ID law and reinstate straight-ticket voting. The legislation was defeated by the Iowa Republicans. A trial challenging the Iowa voter ID law as unconstitutional began in June. Iowa Democrats also introduced legislation (HF 130) that would have created an ongoing absentee voter status for Iowans, but the measure failed due to Republican control of the legislature.

A group of bipartisan legislators in the Iowa state House voted to advance a bill (HF 213) that would have amended the Iowa Constitution to restore voting rights for individuals with felony records who had completed their sentences. Even Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds supported re-enfranchising Iowans. However, Iowa GOP state Senators thwarted the voting rights advancement and killed the bill. Iowa is one of only three states along with Kentucky and Virginia that permanently strip individuals convicted of felonies of their right to vote.

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In 2018, Kansas dodged a voter suppression bullet when Kansan voters elected Democrat Laura Kelly to the governorship over notorious vote suppressor Kris Kobach. Kobach has remained in the news after his defeat: it turns out Kobach was one of the driving forces behind the Trump administration’s attempt to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census. But the voter suppression zombie that is Kris Kobach is not done trying to bring down democracy in Kansas. Kobach recently announced that he is running for U.S. Senate in Kansas - although he did misspell his name on his registration form. Kobach has claimed that a misspelled name is a sign of voter fraud and that those voters should be purged from voter rolls--according to his rules, it seems like he should be purged from running for Senate. Kansan voters need to be sure to say no to Kobach again in 2020.

This session, Kansas was able to pass a modest pro-voting rights legislation. Kansas enacted a bill (SB 130) that allows a Kansan voting with an advance ballot to correct signature deficiency prior to the final canvas, and allows voters to vote at any polling location within a county if approved by county election officials. Moreover, with a Democratic governor, Republicans were unable to further restrict the right to vote in Kansas.

However, with Republicans in charge of the legislature, most of the pro-voting policies proposed by Kansas Democrats failed. Democrats introduced the Kansas Free State Election Act (HB 2220), which would remove the unnecessary proof of citizenship law, allow for same day registration and voting, and establish permanent advanced voting - all initiatives that spur democracy. Kansas Democrats also introduced legislation to establish automatic voter registration (SB 159), expand early voting (HB 2091), allow voting by provisional ballot when voter moves to a new county without registering (HB 2189), establish same day voter registration (HB 2092, SB 43), and an expansion of voter registration services (HB 2090). All of these measures had strong Democratic support and would make Kansas elections more fair and accessible. All of these measures failed due to Republican opposition. 

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is the leading roadblock to pro-democracy election reforms in the United States. Not only is McConnell an enemy to the right to vote, he is also single-handedly stopping vital election security to protect our democracy. Kentucky deserves better than McConnell and voting rights would improve across the country if McConnell is fired in 2020.

This session at the state level, grassroots activists pushed to automatically restore voting rights to individuals with felony records after they have completed their sentences. Currently, Kentucky is one of only three states -- including Iowa and Virginia -- that permanently strip individuals of their right to vote after a felony conviction. Over 312,000 Kentucky citizens cannot vote because of felony convictions. Unfortunately, due to Republican opposition, legislation (SB 93, HB 91, SB 90, SB 91) proposed by Kentucky Democrats that would have restored to the right of these Kentucky citizens to vote failed. 

Democratic legislators in Kentucky also introduced legislation that would improve the ability of Kentuckians to vote. Democrats introduced bills to expand early voting (SB 63, HB 253), enact early in-person absentee voting (SB 251, HB 372), extend voting hours (HB 247, SB 134), enact automatic voter registration (HB 364), lower the voting age for local elections to 16 years (SB 48), and establish Election Day as a national holiday (HR 85). Every single one of these pro-voter, pro-democracy bills failed due to Republican opposition. Kentucky Republicans want to make it harder to vote, so Kentucky voters need to make sure they won’t be reelected.

Kentucky state elections are this November. Kentuckians deserve politicians who understand the value of every citizen’s right to vote and will work to make elections fairer, freer, and more accessible. That’s why voters need to vote for voting rights champion Andy Beshear for governor and need to vote out Republicans like Gov. Matt Bevin who suppress the vote. 2019 is a big year for voting rights in Kentucky.

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Last year, the Louisiana legislature was able to take steps to expand voting rights in the state. Lawmakers worked together to automatically restore voting rights to people with felony convictions who have not been incarcerated within the past five years. The measure enfranchised approximately 36,000 citizens on March 1 of this year. Although the measure did not restore the right to vote to all citizens as should be the case, it was a step in the right direction. However, this year Louisiana’s state legislative session followed a typical path as GOP legislators attempted to make voting harder and Democrats introduced measures to expand voting rights.

Louisiana Democrats introduced legislation (HB 402) that would make it easier to register to vote for the 36,000 citizens who recently regained the right to vote. Currently, individuals need to get voter registration paperwork from their parole/probation officer and then appear in person at the voter registrar in order to register. The proposal would have removed the requirement that individuals appear at the voter registrar in order to register to vote. The legislation failed due to GOP opposition. We should be working to make it more accessible for eligible voters to vote, not putting up barriers. 

Democratic legislators also proposed a bill that would establish automatic voter registration (SB 58), a proven step to increase voter registration, but the legislation died due to GOP opposition. 

At the same time, a Louisiana Republican legislator tried to make it harder for people to vote living in isolated areas. State Rep. Gregory Miller introduced a bill (HB 202) that would allow a polling place to be closed if there were fewer than 10 registered voters at the polling place. This is bad for American democracy as other emerging democracies have worked to ensure the principle that every vote and voter matters. In India this year, election workers traveled 300 miles over four days in order to set up a polling location for a single voter! American politicians need to show the same dedication to voting.

Louisiana lawmakers were able to pass one measure that should promote democracy in the state. The Senate passed a resolution (SR 11) directing the Department of Education to prepare age appropriate, non-partisan voter education materials for school children. Instilling the importance of democracy in children at a young age is crucial for our society.

Outside of work done in the legislature, Louisiana was sued in July by voting rights activists to challenge discriminatory maps to elect State Supreme Court judges. Since 1813, only 2 of 114 justices have been African-American.

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Maine had a successful legislative session in the voting rights sphere. Thanks to Democrats gaining control of the Maine legislature and governorship in 2018, Maine became the 16th state to establish automatic voter registration (LD 1463). Every Republican legislator voted against automatic voter registration. Automatic voter registration increases voter registration and makes voting more accessible.

Maine also became the first state in the country to pass ranked choice voting for presidential elections (LD 1663) -- an approach some voting rights advocates have argued is more democratic than current voting practices.

Unfortunately, a number of pro-voter policies were not able to pass this session. Democratic legislators introduced a number of measures that would enhance voting rights, including legislation to establish early in-person voting (LD 293), and expand early voting, absentee voting, and vote-by-mail (LD 1631, LD 272). A bipartisan bill to expand online voter registration also failed (LD 1570).

Luckily, Maine Republicans were unable to pass a restrictive voter ID law (LD 322) in Maine. Maine Republicans also failed to pass laws (LD 186, LD 1372) that would exclude non-citizens from voting in local elections. There have been some initiatives in Portland, Maine to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections. These noncitizen voting laws, which have popped up across the country, are being pushed by secret Republican donors and Trump allies. Hidden money should not affect the will of Maine voters.

On that note, Maine was able to pass legislation (LD 54) to limit the influence of lobbyists in the state. Getting corporate money out of politics is a win for democracy.

Finally, while eligible individuals who are incarcerated are only allowed to vote in Maine and Vermont -- a critical measure to protect the sanctity of the right to vote -- few inmates actually exercise their right to vote. Maine and Vermont can do more in the future to ensure that voters who are incarcerated are aware of and able to exercise their right to vote.

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The biggest news for voting rights in Maryland this session was the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Rucho v. Common Cause, in which the court found that partisan gerrymandering is nonjusticiable (i.e., that it’s not within the judiciary’s power to rule on the issue). All voters deserve to vote under a map where they choose their politicians and not the other way around. 

Democratic legislators were able to make important voting rights advances as they passed legislation establishing same day registration (HB 286, SB 449) (the measure had already passed by ballot initiative) and a bill expanding early voting centers (HB 237). However, measures that would have enabled eligible voters to register at high schools (SB 934) and established a permanent absentee voter list (HB 119, SB 333) did not advance this session. 

Maryland Democrats also passed exciting legislation that allows a voter to choose a “nonbinary” gender option when registering to vote and obtaining a driver’s license.

Thanks to Democratic control of the state legislature, Maryland Republicans were unable to pass a suppressive voter ID law (HB 992).

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In July, Massachusetts’ top court determined that the state requirement that voters register 20 days before an election did not violate the state constitution. This ruling overturned a lower court that had ruled that the voter registration deadline created an unconstitutional burden on eligible voters. In response to the court decision, both the Democratic Attorney General and Secretary of the Commonwealth have pushed lawmakers to enact same day registration. Massachusetts Democrats introduced bills to implement same day voter registration (H 685, H 715), but the measures did not pass. Same day voter registration has been shown to improve voter turnout and Massachusetts lawmakers should work to bring the measure to the state.

Massachusetts Democrats introduced other bills to making enhance voting rights: extending early voting in the state (H 684, H 682, S 387, S 390), restoring voting rights to individuals who are incarcerated (S 405), giving voters time off on election day to vote (S 384) improving citizen knowledge of voting rights (S 395), and allowing 16 year olds to vote in local elections (H 662). None of these pro-democracy measures passed.

At the same time, Massachusetts Republicans introduced legislation that would suppress voting rights by requiring a specific ID to vote (H 705). Massachusetts Republicans learned from the GOP in other states that voter ID laws are a useful way to suppress the vote. Luckily for Massachusetts voters, the bill failed. 

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Voters in Michigan were given bad news this June when the United States Supreme Court’s found in Rucho v. Common Cause that it isn’t the role of the judiciary to prevent extreme partisan gerrymandering. Federal judges in Michigan already struck down the Michigan map as unconstitutional, but now Michigan voters will be forced to vote under unfair, undemocratic maps in 2020 that were gerrymandered to give Republicans an advantage. Michigan Democratic House Leader Christine Greig, a member of Let America Vote’s Board of Advisors, described the gerrymandering decision as a “crushing loss” for democracy. The only silver lining for Michiganders is that there should be an independent redistricting commission for the 2021 redistricting. Yet, the Michigan GOP is already trying to hobble the independent redistricting and has filed two lawsuits attempting to end the commission.

In 2018, Michiganders voted by an overwhelming to pass the Promote the Vote initiative, approving a constitutional amendment to expand voting rights in the state. Voters passed a ballot initiative that enshrines automatic voter registration, same day registration, no-excuse absentee voting, and straight-ticket voting in the state constitution. This was an amazing step for voting rights. Spoiler alert: Republicans didn’t like it! Michigan Republicans attempted to strip away the voting rights enshrined in the new law before it even went into effect. Fortunately, the GOP’s attempts to reject the will of the voters failed, and Promote the Vote went into effect this year.

Furthermore, in response to Michigan voters approving of strengthening voting rights in Michigan, GOP legislators stripped Michigan citizens’ ability to pass measures by ballot initiative during their lameduck session. Michigan Republicans have made it nearly impossible to initiative petition drives. In response to Republicans taking democratic powers away from Michiganders, a lawsuit challenging the GOP’s action has been initiated.

In some good news, Michigan settled a lawsuit brought by college voters who contended that voting Michigan procedures deliberately confused young voters to make it harder for them to register and vote. Michigan agreed to promote college-age voter participation. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson also found that a Michigan law that required first time voters to vote in person to be unenforceable in settling the lawsuit. This is good news for voter engagement.

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As of 2018, Minnesota became the only state in the country with a divided legislature (something that hasn’t happened since 1914). This has led to disputes over bipartisan issues such as election security funding. Minnesota eventually passed a bill to accept funding under the Help America Vote Act, but was the last state in America to do so. Due to GOP obstruction, Minnesota was unable to strengthen voting rights for Minnesotans.

Republican obstruction further led to individuals with felony records not having their rights restored. Minnesota Democrats introduced legislation (HF 40) to automatically restore the right to vote for individuals released from incarceration. Restoring voting rights should not be a partisan issue, and often isn’t across the country, but the Minnesota GOP has obstructed measures to protect citizens’ voting rights.

Minnesota Democrats proposed an omnibus election bill (HF 1603) that would have made Minnesota one of the leading states for voting rights. The bill included election and campaign finance, automatic voter registration, restoration of voting rights of persons with felony convictions, early voting, automatic absentee ballot delivery, ranked-choice voting, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, and establishing an independent redistricting commission. But the bill did not advance. 

Other Democratic initiatives that made no progress due to Minnesota Republican included establishing automatic voter registration (HF 45, SF 124), creating an independent redistricting commission (HF 1855, SF 2575), establishing early voting (HF 1371, SF 312), expanding in-person absentee voting (SF 1320), expand voter registration (HF 1487), allowing the voting age to be lowered to 16 years in local elections (HF 2423, SF 2525), and ensuring that ballots are available in languages other than English (HF 1183, SF 2235).

Minnesota GOP legislators also introduced legislation to make voting harder, including making it harder to cast a provisional ballot (HF 1109) and to establish more challenges of voter (SF 1803).

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It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that voting rights in Mississippi are some of the weakest in the country. Indeed, Mississippi Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith even “joked” that voter suppression is a “great idea.” When campaigning for Secretary of State, then candidate Sam Britton declared that Mississippi needs a voter ID law. The only problem: Mississippi already has a voter ID law that suppresses the vote. Mississippi Republicans have implemented so many voter suppression tactics, they can’t keep track of them. 

This spring, civil rights activists fought back against voter suppression by filing suit against Mississippi officials challenging a Jim Crow era law that have prevented African-Americans from being elected statewide. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is representing the Mississippians. Under the Mississippi law, if no candidate for statewide office wins a majority of the vote, the election is decided by the Mississippi House. The discriminatory effect of this law is not hypothetical: no African Americans have been elected in Mississippi statewide since this provision was enacted. Mississippi has statewide elections in 2019 and this discriminatory law could directly affect the outcome of those elections. 

Even though Mississippi Republicans (and formerly Dixiecrats) have a long history of suppressing the vote in the state, Mississippi Democrats still fought for voting rights. All of the Democratic bills that would have expanded voting rights that were introduced this session failed, including: authorization of early voting (SB 2895, HB 1542, SB 2026), expanding absentee voting (HB 902) (last November, Mississippi was sued for its burdensome absentee voting), requiring an on-campus voting precinct at all public universities (HB 1346), establishment of online voter registration and pre-election day voting (SB 2258), and enactment of automatic voter registration (HB 423). A Mississippi Democratic bill (SB 2855) that would have restored voting rights to individuals with felony records after they completed their sentences and restored fines also failed.

A Republican legislator also unsuccessfully tried to create additional unnecessary barriers to voting by introducing legislation (SB 2464) that requires eligible voters to present proof of citizenship to register to vote. 

Mississippi is one of the few states with state elections in 2019. This November, we need to focus on putting as many voting rights champions into office as possible in order to make Mississippi elections more free, fair, and accessible. Every state and local election matters in fighting voter suppression and promoting voting rights--Mississippi voters need to turn out in elections this fall. Find out how to help elect Democrats in Mississippi this fall!

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In 2018, Missouri voters resoundingly voted to create an independent redistricting commission in order to prevent partisan gerrymandering. How did the Missouri Republicans respond? Not so surprisingly, they’ve done everything they can to brush aside the will of the voters. Republicans attempted to roll back the redistricting rules voted on by Missourians. Missouri state House Republicans voted overwhelmingly (HJR 46, 47, 48) to undo the redistricting changes. Fortunately, the bill died in the State Senate.

Republican resistance to pro-democracy policies was not only related to partisan gerrymandering, but also to maintaining unnecessary barriers to voting. Missouri is one of only 12 states that offers neither no-excuse absentee voting or any form of early voting. Yet Missouri Republicans have resisted any measures to remove obstacles for citizens to register to vote. This session, Missouri Democrats introduced multiple measures to make voter registration fairer for Missourians. Missouri Democrats have fought to introduce no-excuse absentee voting (HB 992), but the bill did not pass. Missouri Democrats also introduced legislation (HJR 5, HB 994) to introduce early voting, but again Republican opposition doomed the measure. Democratic initiatives to establish same day registration (SB 384) and expanding locations for voter registration (HB 993) also failed. Finally, Republican control of the Missouri legislature also led to a bill (HB 624) introducing automatic voter registration to fail.

Missouri Democrats also unsuccessfully tried to make voting more accessible for voters. Dem lawmakers introduced legislation to establish no-excuse absentee voting (SB 171), early voting (HRJ 5), and allowing individuals over 60 to vote absentee (HB 202), all of these measures failed.

Democrats also worked to restore voting rights for individuals with felony convictions once they are no longer incarcerated (HB 508). The bill would allow individuals on parole or probation to vote. Restoring the right to vote is an important act to help reintegrate formerly incarcerated citizens back into the community.

Missouri Democrats also introduced legislation (HB 276) that would restrict purges of voter rolls, but the measure failed.

Missouri Republicans have continued to chase non-existent widespread voter fraud and advanced a bill (HB 269) that would give the Missouri Secretary of State subpoena power to search for voter fraud. Missourians deserve politicians who will fight for their voting rights, not waste time chasing a myth.

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In 2019, Montana has successfully passed measures to improve voter accessibility and voting rights. Legislation was enacted that allows voters who register late to still cast a ballot (SB 148), improves access for voters with disabilities (SB 291), makes it easier for overseas voters and military voters to cast ballots (SB 124)

While some pro-democracy bills passed, Republicans still attempted to bring voter suppression bills to Montana. GOP lawmakers tried to enact a restrictive voter ID law this session (SB 366). In the past, Montana Republicans have claimed that voter ID law is needed to prevent vote fraud. However, the Montana Secretary of State has confirmed that there have been no verified incidents of voter fraud in Montana. Voter ID laws make voting harder and have been shown to suppress the vote of marginalized citizens. GOP lawmakers also tried to pass legislation (SB 143) to restrict voter registration, but the bill failed.

On the other hand, Democratic initiatives that would have expanded voting rights in Montana did not advance due to GOP opposition. Those measures included making it easier for voters to register at the DMV (HB 536), authorizing online voter registration (HB 699), giving voters paid time off from work to vote (HB 448), paying for postage for vote-by-mail (HB 606), and allowing 16 year olds to pre-register to vote (HB 508).

In positive news, Montana passed a resolution to examine barriers to voting for Native American voters in Montana (HJ 10). This resolution comes after allegations that Native American voter suppression has occurred in recent Montana elections. Native American often suffer from unique barriers to voting and our politicians must do all they can to remove those barriers.

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In 2018, a voter ID law pushed by Republicans in the Nebraska legislature was defeated for the 8th straight year. No voter ID bill was introduced this session, but Republicans haven’t given up their fight to suppress the vote. Nebraska’s recently elected Secretary of State Bob Evenen has made it his mission to pass a restrictive voter ID law in 2020. Voter ID laws were a major part of Sec. Evenen’s 2018 campaign, so Nebraskan voters and politicians need to be ready to push back.

Nebraska Democrats pushed two bills related to restoration of voting rights. One bill would restore voting rights to all felons (LB 711) and the other would restore the right to vote to individuals who have completed their felony sentence or probation for a felony (LB 83). The right to vote is the constitutional right that protects all other rights and should not be stripped of citizens. Restoring the right to vote helps reintegrate individuals into their communities and cuts recidivism.

Democratic legislation (LB 687) was introduced to revise Nebraska’s automatic voter registration (enacted in 2016) to require voters to opt-out of registering to vote instead of opting-in at the DMV. The legislation also ensures that only eligible citizens are automatically registered to vote. 

Nebraska Democrats introduced other measures to make voting more accessible, including introduced a bill (LB 733) to ensure polling places are handicapped accessible.

Finally, the Nebraska legislature is trying to determine how it should handle redistricting in 2021. Currently, the legislature, not an independent redistricting commission, will handle the job, so Nebraska legislative maps are in danger of being gerrymandered. Legislation has been introduced to outline procedures for redistricting (LB 253, LB 466), but it is unclear whether those will ensure fair maps for Nebraskans. The best way to create democratic districts is to take partisan politics out of creating maps.

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The 2018 Nevada elections were great for voting rights! First, voters approved automatic voter registration in Nevada, which will greatly improve voter accessibility in the state. Even more importantly, voters gave Nevada Democrats control of the governorship, House, and Senate. Because of this power, Democrats have been able to focus on passing pro-voter, pro-democracy legislation.

This session, Nevada passed on omnibus election bill (AB 345) that makes voting fairer and more accessible. The legislation establishes same day voter registration on Election Day and during early voting, improves online registration, provides for no-excuse absentee voting (vote-by-mail), expands polling places, and extends the time to vote absentee voting. The impact this legislation will have on promoting voting rights is hard to overstate. With this legislation, Nevada has become one of the most voter-friendly states in the country.

Nevada also automatically restored voting rights (AB 431) to individuals with felony records once they are released from prison. On July 1, over 77,000 Nevadans had their right to vote restored; a crucial day for those voters and for all of Nevada. All eligible citizens are granted the right to vote and criminal conviction should not take that away. This is an important step to ensure voting rights for all Nevadans. 

A new law (AB 137) also requires that, once clerks establish a polling place on an Indian reservation, they must maintain that polling place for future elections. We need to keep pushing to ensure Native Americans voting rights are being protected across the country. Supporting the Native American Voting Rights Act of 2019 is one way to ensure elections are free and fair for Native Americans.

Finally, Nevada also amended the Constitution to enshrine Nevada citizens’ voting rights (SJR 3A). This amendment will enable Nevada voters to protect their constitutional right now and in the future. Nevada is a great example of why it is so important to elect politicians who will fight for voting rights - it will be one of the most democratic states in America going forward.

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New Hampshire

New Hampshirites may live free or die, but they sure don’t vote free due to Republican politicians. In 2017 and 2018, New Hampshire GOP legislators passed bills (SB 3 and HB 1264) that disenfranchised voters across New Hampshire. Those bills raised unnecessary barriers to voting and will require students to pay a poll tax in order to vote. Gov. Sununu signed the bills into law even though he said he “hated” a bill similar to HB 1264, which redefines residency and revokes the voting rights of students who live in New Hampshire. In response to those anti-democratic measures, Let America Vote started working in New Hampshire to protect the right to vote. In November 2018, New Hampshire voters sent a clear message that they were against the illegal voter suppression laws that the GOP had enacted by giving New Hampshire Democrats control of both the state House and Senate.

New Hampshire Democrats kept their promise to Granite State voters and passed bills (HB 105, HB 106, SB 67) that repeal the restrictive voting measures enacted by Republicans. But Gov. Sununu cravenly refrained from signing the bills and the restrictive measures went into effect on July 1. Instead, Gov. Sununu vetoed the bills, therefore keeping in place a modern day poll tax for New Hampshire voters. 

Gov. Sununu also vetoed a bill that had broad bipartisan support that would establish an independent redistricting commission (HB 706). Gov. Sununu vetoed the bill even though it would have prevented extreme partisan gerrymandering.

Not only has Gov. Sununu stonewalled pro-voter bills, he also vetoed four bills that would promote free and fair elections. The four election reform bills (SB 156, SB 68, HB 504, SB 106) would have improved campaign finance reform and increased transparency in elections.

One win for voting rights was the passage of a bill that expands absentee voting accessibility for the elderly and disabled citizens (HB 531). Granite State Democrats have proposed other pro-voter policies this session that did not pass, including automatic voter registration (SB 7), no-excuse absentee voting (HB 611, CA 6) and early voting for people over 60 years (HB 535).

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New Jersey

The Garden State is lucky to have voting champion Gov. Phil Murphy in office. In 2018, New Jersey was able to establish both automatic voter registration (A2014) and vote-by-mail (S647). Gov. Murphy has been calling for additional strong voting rights legislation in 2019. Gov. Murphy is pushing for a bill that allows online voter registration, early voting, same day voter registration, and restores the right to vote to individuals on parole and probation. These measures would make New Jersey one of the leading states for voting rights.

So far in 2019, New Jersey has passed legislation (S756) that updates notice of elections requirements to include information for voters to obtain polling locations - this should help increase poll accessibility. Several other voting rights bills have been introduced so far in 2019, including expanding vote-by-mail (A5195), requiring vote-by-mail ballots to include prepaid return postage (A4963, S3333), requiring paid leave for employees to vote on Election Day in certain circumstances (S3385), and requiring that ballot be available in English and Spanish (A5471). 

With New Jersey Democrats at the helm, we are optimistic that New Jersey will continue to be a leader in voting rights.

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New Mexico

During this session, New Mexico Democrats pushed for several bills that expanded voting rights in the state. In big successes for voter accessibility, New Mexico passed a bill (SB 672) to expand early and automatic voter registration. Great news for New Mexicans! The state also passed an election tune-up bill (HB 407), that primarily makes smaller fixes to elections, but also should improve poll accessibility. New Mexico also enacted a campaign finance reform bill (SB 3) that should improve election and fundraising transparency.

One major piece of legislation that ultimately fell short this session was a bill to restore voting rights to individuals with felony convictions - even if they were incarcerated. If the bill (HB 57) had passed, New Mexico would have joined Maine and Vermont as the only states to completely prohibit disenfranchising otherwise-eligible citizens due to felony records. No citizen should have their right to vote stripped, even if they have committed a crime. We hope New Mexico Democrats will continue to advocate for the voting rights of all citizens.

Democratic lawmakers also pushed for other pro-democratic measures this session, including establishing early voting and registration three days before elections (SB 52), permitting voter registration on election day and at early voting sites (HB 86), exploring the introducing vote-by-mail elections (HJM 12), requiring school counselors to be voter registration agents (SB 410), and creating a task force to improve voting for Native Americans in the state (HB 249). New Mexico Democrats introduced legislation (HM 52) in support of the For the People Act of 2019 (H.R.). H.R. 1 would transform American elections to make them considerably fairer and freer. All states should support its passage in the U.S. Senate.

This session, a bill (SB 416) was also introduced to establish an independent redistricting commission in the state. Independent redistricting is the best way to fight back against extreme partisan gerrymandering and to ensure fair maps.

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New York

Although the Empire State has a reputation as a progressive state, New York’s voting laws have been quite restrictive. However, New York Democrats took total control of the state government in 2018 and made implementing pro-voter, pro-democracy policies their first priority. 

Democratic lawmakers were able to pass a bill that introduces sweeping improvements to New York’s voting laws. The new act (S1102) establishes early voting and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and provides initial authorization to constitution amendments to establish same-day registration and no-excuse-absentee voting that includes early voting. Those proposed constitutional amendments will need to be approved by voters in the future. This package was a huge win for voting rights.

New York also came close to passing automatic voter registration (S6457), but the measure fell short in the final day of this session. Dem lawmakers have affirmed that establishing automatic voter registration will be a legislative priority next session. If the bill is passed next session, automatic voter registration will come to New York in 2021 - the same year it would have been introduced had the bill passed this session.

Other pro-voting rights bills were introduced this session that did not advance, including preventing illegal voter roll purges (A3334, S2301), restoring voting rights to individuals with felony convictions (A4987, S1931), improving election security (S308), establishing no-excuse-absentee voting and permanent absentee voter status (S699, A4505), providing time off for voters who work on Election Day to cast their ballot (S6278), lowering the voting age to 16 and providing students with voter registration information (S2273, A3339), and other omnibus bills to further expand voting rights (S4299, S4821, A4823). We look forward to New York lawmakers continuing to push for the right to vote for New Yorkers. 

However, New York is not immune from Republican attempts to suppress the vote as New York GOP lawmakers introduced restrictive voter ID laws this session (A6105, S2091). Voting rights champions need to be prepared to fight against anti-voter laws in all states.

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North Carolina

North Carolina has long been one of the leading voter suppression states in America. Due to Republicans keeping control of the state legislature in 2018, North Carolina continues to lead the way in anti-voter policies. To make it worse, due to the Supreme Court’s decision on partisan gerrymandering, North Carolina voters will be forced to again vote under an undemocratic, discriminatory Congressional map in 2020. However, North Carolina voters received a major win in the fight against gerrymandering this September when a North Carolina state court struck down North Carolina’s legislative map as a partisan gerrymander. Lawmakers in the state have until September 18 to draw new, fair maps. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has said they will not enter the partisan gerrymandering fight, state courts may be used to challenge gerrymandered maps more in the future.

This session, North Carolina Democrats have pushed for establishing an independent, non-partisan redistricting commission (H648, H69, H140, S673, H827). It is hard to overstate how important independent redistricting is to democracy in North Carolina. When given the chance in 2011, North Carolina Republicans drew the most extreme partisan gerrymandered legislative maps in the country. North Carolina needs to establish an independent redistricting commission before redistricting in 2021 to ensure that North Carolina has fair maps.

Since North Carolina has been a hotbed of voter suppression and gerrymandering, it was encouraging to see Democratic lawmakers pushing pro-democracy policies to clean up elections in the state. This session, North Carolina Democrats introduced the Let North Carolina Vote Act (H589). The common sense legislation would have enacted automatic, online, and Election Day voter registration, extend early voting opportunities, and require counties to provide voters with a free photo ID to comply with identification laws. North Carolina Democrats also introduced other comprehensive election reform bills called the “Fix Our Democracy” acts (H574, S641). Unfortunately, the measures failed due to Republican politicians. This was a loss for free and fair elections, but we hope North Carolina lawmakers will continue to push for these policies in the future.

North Carolina Democrats introduced other pro-voting legislation that did not advance, including automatic and online voter registration (S495, H691), curbside voting for caregivers (H818), expanding and increasing flexibility in early voting (H893), requiring prepaid return envelopes for absentee ballots (H743), and moes to fight back against Citizens United (H512). A Democratic bill (H314, S656) to move forward a constitutional amendment to repeal a literacy test wasn’t even able to more forward due to Republican opposition.

After the Republican absentee voter fraud that occurred in 2018, North Carolina Democrats pushed for legislation (S683) to combat that form of voter fraud. Not too surprisingly, it didn’t pass. Republicans also continued to push legislation that may make it harder to vote, including potentially restricting the use of schools as polling places (H24), 

In bittersweet news, North Carolina did pass legislation (H646) to allow more student IDs to be used as voter identification at polling places. Although the bill shouldn’t have been needed as voter ID laws are unnecessary barriers to voting, it is an improvement on the status quo.

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North Dakota

North Dakotan Native Americans were victims of discriminatory voter ID laws during the 2018 elections. Native American voters were not permitted to vote with Tribal IDs. This is blatant voter discrimination and must be addressed before the 2020 elections.

2019 has been a fairly quiet one in North Dakota for voting rights. The state has had one voting rights win this year as legislation (SB 2307) passed to extend the minimum polling place hours. Legislators also introduced legislation to begin a study of implementing vote-by-mail (SB 2356). Vote-by-mail is a great way to improve voter turnout in rural states and would be a great step forward for North Dakota.

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Over the past decade, Ohio Republicans have worked hard to make Ohio anti-voter and anti-democracy by using tactics such as purging voter rolls and gerrymandering legislative maps. After the Supreme Court’s partisan gerrymandering decision, Ohioans will again vote under an unfair, undemocratic, discriminatory legislative map in 2020. This should be the last time the GOP is able to steal legislative seats in Ohio because Ohio citizens voted to establish an independent commission for redistricting in 2021. 

Overall, 2019 has been a slow year for voting rights legislation in Ohio. Ohio Democrats introduced legislation to improve election security by requiring paper ballots be used (HB 204). Ohio Republicans did try to expand the voter IDs allowed under Ohio’s restrictive voter ID laws by allowing voters to use concealed handgun licenses (HB 49).

New Ohio Republican Secretary of State Frank Larose has stated that he supports making registering to vote and voting easier for Ohioans. Larose says that he supports automatic voter registration amongst other initiatives. However, Larose also says that he plans to continue Ohio’s anti-voter roll purges. Larose did not get any actual policies proposed this session.

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Oklahoma is one of seven states that regularly purges voters off of its rolls if they haven’t voted in recent elections. Oklahoma performed a purge of 91,000 voters from the voting rolls this April. These types of voter purges are unnecessary and make it harder for eligible registered voters to vote in future elections.

Oklahoma did see modest improvements for voters this session as Oklahoma lawmakers passed two bills to promote voting rights and fair elections: a bill (SB 58) requiring employers to give employees two hours off to vote during early voting, a bill (SB 496) to allow 17-and-a-half year olds to pre-register to vote, and a bill (SB 261) to improve election security. 

Oklahoma Democrats introduced legislation (SB 282) to restore voting rights to certain individuals with felony convictions, but the bill did not advance. Oklahoma was able to pass legislation to educate persons with felony records on the restoration of their voting rights.

Oklahoma Democrats introduced an array of other measures that would have made elections freer and fairer, but the legislation did not pass: vote-by-mail (SB 634), automatic voter registration (HB 2087, HB 2535), and the establishment of an independent redistricting commission (HJR 1019).

Oklahoma GOP politicians also put in work to make it harder for voters to register and cast a ballot by introducing legislation to confirm all registered voters are citizens by using state and federal data (HB 2429). These types of voter validations are often used to purge voters from the voting rolls.

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Over the past few years, with strong leadership from Gov. Kate Brown--a member of Let America Vote’s Board of Advisors--Oregon has been on the forefront of passing pro-democracy legislation. It was the first state to introduce automatic voter registration and vote-by-mail. 

This session, Oregon Democrats enacted legislation (SB 861) to provide prepaid postage for all vote-by-mail ballots. Dem lawmakers also removed failure-to-vote as trigger for moving voter to inactive status (SB 224). The legislation also expand ways in which military voters can request absentee ballots. Thus, Oregon has removed even more barriers to voting to make elections more accessible

Oregon Democratic lawmakers also passed the Oregon Voting Rights Act (HB 3310). This important piece of legislation requires that people of color have “an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice” without having their votes diluted. This is a great step to make elections fairer for all voters.

Oregon Democrats also introduced an array of other pro-voter legislation, but were unable to advance the bills due to GOP opposition. The Oregon GOP did not put an emphasis on compromise or working together this session. Democratic lawmakers pushed to end prison gerrymandering (HB 2492), to lower the voting age to 16 years old (SJR 22, SB 838), to improve election security (SB 542)

Some Oregon legislators have pushed for the establishment of an independent redistricting commission (SJR 11, HB 2762) before 2021 redistricting. While Oregon’s current legislative map does not suffer from partisan gerrymandering, establishing an independent redistricting commission is important to ensure fair, democratic maps going forward is vital for Oregon democracy.

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2019 followed the recent trend of Democrats fighting to expand voting rights and Republicans working to make it harder for citizens to vote. Gov. Tom Wolf, a Let America Vote Board of Advisors member, has always been a fighter for fair and accessible elections for all citizens

Gov. Wolf introduced a 21st century voting reform plan, which included a proposal to advance voting rights by offering same day voter registration, automatic voter registration, and modernizing absentee ballots. It also lays out new campaign finance laws, restrictions on Political Action Committees, and establishes an independent, bi-partisan commission to create future electoral maps.

Pennsylvania Democrats attempted to advance pro-voting measures last session but were thwarted by Republican opposition. The pro-democracy measures included establishing early voting (HB 1558, SB 294, HB 747), expanding the ability to vote absentee (HB 43, SB 414, SB 411, HB 1420, SB 345, SB 33), creating a permanent early voting list (SB 415), establishing automatic voter registration and same day registration (HB 1556, HB 1560, SB 355), expanding accessibility for voters with disabilities (HB 134), establishing vote centers to improve accessibility (SB 416), providing for employee vote leave on Election Day (HB 676), requiring paper ballots (HB 765), providing for pre-registration for high school students (HB 704, HB 626), general measures to improve registration accessibility (SB 214), creating a voter’s bill of rights (SB 375), establishing vote-by-mail (HB 1059), providing for electronic voter registration (HB 668), and lowering the voting age to 16 years (SB 289).

At the same time, PA Republicans continued attempts to restrict voting rights as they introduced legislation to create a restrictive voter ID law (HB 676).

Legislation to form an independent redistricting commission (HB 23) also failed. Creating a non-partisan redistricting commission is vital for Pennsylvania democracy as PA Republicans drew one of the most gerrymandered maps in the country in 2011.

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Rhode Island

In 2019, Rhode Island politicians have turned their focus to election integrity and restoring voters’ faith in elections. Election security and accuracy is a crucial foundation of fair and free elections, and it is important for states to be focusing on election integrity before the 2020 elections.

While Rhode Island has been one of the many states that have enacted suppressive voter ID laws over the last few years, Democratic legislators were at least able to dull those measures this session. Rhode Island Democrats enacted legislation (SB 611, HB 5714) that allows voters to use ID that have been expired for up to six months for elections. Very specific voter IDs should never be required to vote, but at least this legislation will slightly limit the voter ID law’s suppressive effect. Rhode Island Dem lawmakers also tried to (SB 339) repeal the state’s voter ID law, but they were unsuccessful.

Democratic lawmakers enacted a bill to extend absentee ballot deadlines for voters in the military.

Rhode Island Democrats also introduced other legislation that would have made voting more accessible for citizens, but those measures did not pass. Democrats introduced legislation to create in-person early voting (HB 5292), create vote-by-mail and early in-person voting (HB 5885, SB 631), allow voters who will be 18 by the date of a general election to vote in a primary (HB 5139, SB 318, SB 319), permit emergency ballots (HB 5712, SB 482), require employers give employees two hours of paid leave for voting on Election Day (SB 316), require paper ballots (HB 5479) establish an independent redistricting commission (HB 5087, SB 368)

At the same time, the Rhode Island GOP was trying to make voting harder by restricting who can submit a vote-by-mail ballot (SB 482) and restricting voters ability to vote-by-mail (SB 487). 

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South Carolina

South Carolina voting laws do nothing to try to make voting easier for its citizens. This session, South Carolina Democratic legislators introduced several pieces of legislation in the state that would make elections more accessible, but unfortunately, none of the bills progressed due to Republican opposition. 

Democratic lawmakers pushed for updating voting machines for election security purposes (H 3304), establishing same day registration (H 3040), create vote-by-mail (H 3170), provide for early voting (H 3266), establish automatic voter registration (S 566), require that individuals with felony convictions be notified of the restoration of their voting rights after their sentence is complete (H 3319), extend the time permitted for voters in the election booth (H 3597), expand the time period of voters to register (H 3031), and requiring the use of paper ballots (H 3616, S 182). South Carolina voters deserve these measures that would have made voting fairer, freer, and more secure and we hope they will move forward in future sessions.

South Carolina Democrats also tried to establish an independent redistricting commission (S 254, S 249, H 3432, H 3167, H 3390) before the 2021 redistricting. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass so South Carolina voters are still at risk of being victims of gerrymandered maps for the next decade. 

Republican lawmakers attempted to make it harder for voters in highly populated areas to vote by eliminating straight ticket voting (H 3033). The bill did not advance this session.

South Carolina voting laws do nothing to try to make voting easier for its citizens. This session, South Carolina Democratic legislators introduced several pieces of legislation in the state that would make elections more accessible, but unfortunately, none of the bills progressed due to Republican opposition. 

Democratic lawmakers pushed for updating voting machines for election security purposes (H 3304), establishing same day registration (H 3040), create vote-by-mail (H 3170), provide for early voting (H 3266), establish automatic voter registration (S 566), require that individuals with felony convictions be notified of the restoration of their voting rights after their sentence is complete (H 3319), extend the time permitted for voters in the election booth (H 3597), expand the time period of voters to register (H 3031), and requiring the use of paper ballots (H 3616, S 182). South Carolina voters deserve these measures that would have made voting fairer, freer, and more secure and we hope they will move forward in future sessions.

South Carolina Democrats also tried to establish an independent redistricting commission (S 254, S 249, H 3432, H 3167, H 3390) before the 2021 redistricting. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass so South Carolina voters are still at risk of being victims of gerrymandered maps for the next decade. 

Republican lawmakers attempted to make it harder for voters in highly populated areas to vote by eliminating straight ticket voting (H 3033). The bill did not advance this session.

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South Dakota

South Dakota has not been a leader in protecting the voting rights of its citizens. This session was no different, as Republican legislators attempted to further attack the voting rights of South Dakotans. 

First, GOP lawmakers tried to restrict the ability of voters to vote by absentee ballot (HB 1178). The bill advanced, but did not pass this legislative session. South Dakota Republicans also tried to restrict a wide array of speech and activities near polling places (SB 7). The bill did not have any legitimate purposes other than making elections less fair and free. 

Republican lawmakers also made it clear that they are hoping to gerrymander South Dakota’s legislative map in an extreme way in 2021. Before the 2011 redistricting, South Dakota established redistricting principles to govern drawing legislative maps, including adhering to one person, one vote; protecting communities of interest; respect for political and geographic boundaries, and protecting minority voting rights. South Dakota GOP lawmakers introduced legislation (HB 1136) attempting to strip away all of those redistricting principles Luckily, the bill did not advance, but South Dakotans must be on the lookout for GOP legislators attempting to strip away their voting rights through extreme partisan gerrymandering.

One modest pro-voter bills were able to pass this session that established election centers (HB 1027). This session was relatively quiet in the voting rights sphere, we hope South Dakota legislators will make pro-voter policies a priority in the next legislative session.

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This spring, the Tennessee GOP made an egregious attack on Tennessee voters’ ability to register to vote. They passed legislation (HB 1079, SB 971) to restrict the ability of organizations to help register voters. The measure created unnecessary barriers for organizations to meet in order to hold voter registration drives--and threatened the organizations with criminal and civil penalties if they failed to meet all requirements of the legislation. This was a blatant move to prevent Tennessee citizens from registering to vote. All Americans should be concerned about this type of suppressive legislation and must continue to fight against it. Tennessee needs voting-rights champions.

Tennessee Democrats also pushed for legislation to restore voting rights to certain individuals with felony records after they have served their sentences (SB 589, HB 547), but the measure was deferred to the 2020 legislative session. 

Pro-voting rights legislators also advocated for establishing automatic voter registration (HB 1210, HB 334, SB 777, HB 553, SB 822), automatically pre-registering voters (SB 837, HB 1002), expanding absentee voting (SB 193, HB 145), creating an independent redistricting commission (HB 1409, SB 935, SJR 169), preventing election officials from requiring proof of citizenship if voters provide their voter registration card and ID (SB 962), implementing no-excuse absentee voting (HB 214, SB 762), requiring early voting on Sundays (HB 46, SB 761), expanding permissible voter IDs (HB 133, SB 90). None of these measures passed due to Republican opposition.

It is clear that Tennessee will be a crucial state in the fight for voting rights as we head into 2020.

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The Texas GOP’s voter suppression tactics made headline this session as then Texas Acting Secretary of State David Whitley conducted a sweeping voter purge. Whitley eventually resigned over his role in the botched voter purge, and it turns out Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was behind the voter suppression scheme

Emails released show that Gov. Abbott’s office made an urgent request to the Texas Department of Public Safety to obtain drivers’ license data in order to identify non-citizens on the voter rolls. Whitley used the driver’s license data to spread the lies that 95,000 non-citizens were registered to vote in Texas and that 58,000 non-citizens had voted in Texas elections. Texas subsequently settled a lawsuit related to those lies, agreeing to stop the unconstitutional voter purge and leaving Texas taxpayers on the hook for $450,000 in costs. Whitley and Gov. Abbott both violated the public trust in orchestrating Texas’ illegal, racist voting purge and both need to go.

On the restoration of voting rights for individuals with felony records, a recent study shows that Texas’ system for restoring voting rights acts as a modern day poll tax. Citizens’ right to vote should never be dependent on whether they can afford it. This poll tax needs to be removed.

Texas Republicans also worked to suppress the vote through new legislation. GOP lawmakers enacted legislation to restrict early voting at mobile polling places (HB 1888). This measure is plainly targeted at making it harder for Texans to vote and it is undemocratic. 

Republican lawmakers advanced other measures to suppress the vote that did not pass this session. One bill (SB 9) limits physical and language accessibility for voters who need assistance and provides for cruel penalties for people who mistakenly register to vote and are ineligible. This legislation is all about scaring people into not registering to vote. GOP lawmakers also introduced legislation to restrict absentee voting (HB 273), restrict early voting (SB 1418), and make Texas’ voter ID law even more restrictive (SB 1926). Those bills did not pass, but we can be sure that Texas Republicans will continue to push for suppressive laws in the next session.

Meanwhile, Texas Democrats pushed to make voting more accessible this session, but were unsuccessful. Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation to expand early voting (HB 1237, HB 2627), repeal Texas’ restrictive voter ID law (HB 824, HB 526, SB 104), establish straight ticket voting (HB 740, SB 359), allow for voting in county jails (HB 1762), establish no-excuse early voting by mail (HB 325, SB 164), provide voter registration at polling places (SB 102, SB 276, HB 1138), establish automatic voter registration (HB 140), expand early voting, restore the right to vote to people with felony convictions once they have completed their sentence (HB 1419), create an independent redistricting commission (SJR 56), and create the Texas Voting Rights Act (HB 2429). All of those pro-voter measures would have strengthened Texans voting rights, but none passed due to Republican opposition. 

Texas has long been one of the true leaders in suppressing the vote, but Texans have a chance to make that change in 2020 by electing voting rights champions!

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Utah’s 2018 elections saw peaks and valleys for voting rights. During the election, Native Americans in Utah experienced significant voter suppression that worked to disenfranchise them and create unnecessary barriers to vote. In July of this year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld a district court’s ruling requiring new school district and county commission maps be drawn in a Utah county because they had been unconstitutionally racially gerrymandered. Utah lawmakers should focus on improving the voting rights of Native Americas. One measure might be the Native American Voting Rights Act of 2019, which was introduced in the U.S. Congress. This legislation would remove barriers for indigenous people when registering to vote and would expand opportunities for participation in the voting process. Improving voting rights for Native Americans should be a priority for all Americans.

Last November, Utah voters passed Proposition Four — an anti-gerrymandering initiative that establishes an independent redistricting commission. Independent redistricting commissions are essential to preventing partisan gerrymandering.

During this session, Utah voters saw one expansion in their voting rights as legislators passed measures to extend early voting hours (SB 61). Making early voting accessible is an important way to promote free and fair elections. 

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Vermont has been one of the leading states in promoting voting rights for years. This session, they further advanced pro-democracy initiatives. Vermont lawmakers passed legislation (S 107) to authorize the Vermont Secretary of State to make automatic voter registration even more accessible by adding additional agencies that register voters. The legislation also allows election clerks to accept emergency absentee ballots after the deadline, authorizes electronic delivery of absentee ballots to voters with disabilities or who are unable to vote due to an illness/injury, and expands early in-person voting.

Vermont Democrats also tried to pass legislation to make Election Day an official state holiday (H 509), allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in municipal elections (H 418), permit employees to take two-hours of leave on election day to vote (H 68).

Finally, while individuals who are incarcerated are only allowed to vote Maine and Vermont -- a critical measure to protect the sanctity of the right to vote -- few inmates actually exercise their right to vote. Maine and Vermont can do more in the future to ensure that voters who are incarcerated are aware of and able to exercise their right to vote.

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Virginia voters received a major victory from the Supreme Court this June. Voters in Virginia will no longer have to vote under an unfair map that discriminates against black voters, diluting their voting power. The U.S. Supreme Court found that Virginia House Republicans did not have authority to appeal a federal court’s decision striking down the gerrymandered maps as unconstitutional. This ruling restores voting power to Virginia’s voters before elections this November. 

While Virginia GOP legislators--thanks to a random drawing that gave them a 51-49 legislative majority--were able to pass anti-voting measures, luckily Virginia’s Democratic governor was able to veto the bills. The measures included a bill (HB 2764) placing restrictions on organizations registering voters and a bill (SB 1038) seeking to require registrars to verify that the name, date of birth, and social security number provided by an applicant on a voter registration application matches the information on file with the Social Security Administration. Governor Ralph Northam also vetoed two bills related to legislative map redistricting (SB 1579, SB 1087) that he contends did not adequately prevent partisan and racial gerrymandering.

Fortunately, a GOP legislator’s awful bill (HB 2266) that would require that Virginia to use E-Verify or other methods to confirm that registered voters are citizens did not advance in the House of Delegates.

Virginia was able to enact limited, no-excuse absentee voting (HB 2790/SB 1026). However, these bills were criticized as not making absentee voting accessible enough as they do not allow for no-excuse absentee voting both by mail and in person. The legislature also passed no-excuse absentee voting for people over 65 years of age (HB 1628, SB 277, SB 164, SB 4). Another relatively modest voting bill (SB 1042) passed requiring the general registrars to notify a person within 14 days if they have been denied registration and provides that denied person may appeal the denial by filing a petition within 10 days. 

Although Virginia Democrats proposed legislation that would restore the right to vote to individuals who had been convicted of felonies (HJR 598, SJR 261, SJR 262), Republicans blocked those efforts. Virginia is just one of three states (along with Kentucky and Iowa) that permanently strip individuals with felony records of their right to vote - albeit the last two Democratic governors in Virginia have restored the right to vote to 200,000 individuals. We need to ensure all Virginia citizens have the right to vote, and not just at the whim of a governor. Democratic lawmakers also proposed measures aimed at informing incarcerated individuals of their right to vote (SB 1202, HB 1800), however these failed due to GOP opposition.

Virginia Democrats introduced other bills to expand voting rights, but were thwarted by the Republican legislators:

In good news, Virginia was able to pass a bill establishing independent redistricting commissions (SJR 306, HJR 615), which will help prevent gerrymandering. However, more work is needed to establish the independent commission by 2021. The proposed amendment must pass the General Assembly again in the 2020 session. If the amendment passes again, it would then appear on the ballot as a referendum during the November 2020 election. Establishing this commission is crucial with 2021 redistricting around the corner.

Virginia is one of the few states that have off-year state elections - so Virginia voters are headed to the polls in November 2019. Now that Virginia voters will be voting under a fair, non-racially-gerrymandered map, there is a real opportunity to put voting champings into elected office to pass many of the pro-voting measures introduced by Democratic legislators this term. If Virginia Democrats had won one extra seat in 2017, they might have been able to pass pro-voting legislation. If Virginia Republicans had won the governorship, they would have been able to enact measures to suppress voting rights. Every state and local election matters in fighting voter suppression and promoting voting rights--Virginia voters need to turn out in elections this fall.

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Washington state has been a leader in promoting voting rights and serves as an important model for other states. In 2018, Gov. Jay Inslee signed the “Access to Democracy” bills that included automatic voter registration, same day voter registration, pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and a state version of the national Voting Rights Act.

Washington has taken additional steps to make elections more fair and free in 2019. Democrats introduced and enacted the Native American Voting Rights Act of Washington (SB 5079), which allows Native Americans to use nontraditional addresses if living on a reservation and permits tribes to request additional election resources from Washington.

Washington Democrats also passed legislation to fund prepaid ballot postage for vote-by-mail ballots (SB 5063). The bill makes Washington’s vote-by-mail process even more accessible and fair.

Washington Democratic legislation (HB 1924, SB 5076) that would have automatically restored voting rights to individuals with felony convictions who are in community custody did not advance this term. Yet, Washington was able to pass legislation (SB 5207) to educate individuals with felony convictions about their voting rights being restored when they are no longer incarcerated or in community custody. We hope the Washington legislature focuses on restoring voting rights to all eligible Washington voters next session.

Democrats introduced legislation to address Washington’s high ballot rejection rate (HB 1861), but that measure did not advance. However, Washington was able to pass legislation (HB 1545) to improve the state’s ability to cure ballot defects in order to ensure an accurate vote count.

Republican legislators in Washington have still tried to pass undemocratic legislation, but have fortunately failed. GOP state Rep. Bradley Klippert introduced legislation (HJR 4202) that sought to make it more difficult for citizen ballot initiatives to pass and legislation (HJR 4204) that would allow individual counties to not implement measures passed by citizen ballot initiative. 

We look to Washington to continue being a leading state in promoting voting rights in the next legislative session.

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West Virginia

In 2016, West Virginia became one of the few Republican leaning states to actually implement a pro-voting policy when it passed automatic voter registration (that bill passed with a restrictive voter ID law). This session, the legislature passed a bill related to West Virginia’s implementation of AVR. The bill (SB 491) unfortunately delayed the date for automatic voter registration to go into effect. AVR must now be in place by July 1, 2021 - after the next major election. West Virginia’s Secretary of State was granted authority to spend $1.5 million to assist county clerks with implementation. Things would be worse on the voter registration front if it were up to West Virginia Republicans. Two GOP legislators introduced legislation (HB 2910) that would completely eliminate automatic voter registration. Automatic voter registration has been proven to increase voter registration and turnout - so Republicans who are scared of voters oppose it.

West Virginia passed another measure (HB 2362) to allow individuals confined due to disabilities, extreme old age, or illness to vote absentee. While states should allow all voters to vote absentee without an excuse, this will at least make voting more accessible for some West Virginia voters.

In a clear attempt to suppress the vote, Republican state Sen. Patricia Rucker introduced legislation (SB 91) that would restrict the ability of eligible voters to vote in West Virginia elections if they do not intend to remain in the state. This tactic of restricting who qualifies as a state resident has been used in other states to suppress the vote of college students. Any effort to disenfranchise citizens is dangerous for our democracy.

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats introduced pro-democratic legislation. West Virginia Democrats introduced legislation (SB 429) to allow individuals who register to vote in-person to vote during the early voting period and introduced a bill (SB 236) to educate individuals with felony records of the restoration of their right to vote after completion of their sentence. Neither pro-voter measure advanced.

Democratic state senators and a bipartisan group of state delegates introduced bills to establish an independent redistricting commission (SB 118, HB 2445), but the measures did not advance. Redistricting legislation in 2019 is extremely important as redistricting will take place after the 2020 census. The establishment of independent redistricting commissions should not be a political issue, as the measures simply ensure fair maps for all voters.

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In 2018, Wisconsin voters turned out in droves to vote out Republican politicians who have been making Wisconsin less democratic. Over the last decade, Republican Gov. Scott Walker systematically made voting more difficult in Wisconsin by passing a strict voter ID law, restricting early voting hours, making it more difficult to vote with absentee ballots, changes to polling place regulations that inject partisanship into the polling place, and implementing extreme partisan gerrymandering. Wisconsinites had enough and kicked Walker out of the governorship. Nevertheless, the Wisconsin GOP’s gerrymandering was so successful that, even though Democrats won 54% of the vote statewide, they only captured 36 of the 99 seats in the Wisconsin state Assembly.

Because Republican state legislatures remained in power, Wisconsin Democrats were unable to pass strong measures to make voting more free and fair. Democrats introduced a sweeping voting rights bill (SB 159) that included measures to establish automatic voter registration, prevent deceptive election practices, prevent voter suppression and intimidation, and establishes a voter bill of rights. The pro-democracy bill has not advanced due to GOP opposition. Democrats also introduced bills to extend voting to 17 year olds (AB 320, SB 307), but the legislation did not progress.

A bipartisan bill (AB 168) that would improve access for voters with disabilities by creating an exception to requirement that voters state their name and address before receiving a ballot passed through the state Assembly, but did not advance through the state Senate.

With Wisconsin redistricting occurring in 2021 after the 2020 census, we can be sure that the Wisconsin GOP will do everything in their power to gerrymander maps in their favor. Scott Walker, who joined the National Republican Redistricting Trust as finance chair, has made it his mission to keep Wisconsin gerrymandered. This session, Wisconsin Democrats introduced legislation to create independent redistricting commissions (AB 303, SB 288). Independent redistricting commissions should have wide, bipartisan support as they simply promote the drawing of fair maps, but that is not the case. There have been whispers that some Wisconsin Republicans may be open to establishing independent redistricting commissions, but we won’t hold our breath. Wisconsin voters need to do all they can to elect politicians who will put an end to extreme partisan gerrymandering by establishing independent redistricting commissions.

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In general, Wyoming has done a fairly good job of protecting voter rights, it must continue to guard against voter suppression. Leading up to the 2018 election, there were allegations that Native American voters were discriminated against while attempting to register to vote. Wyoming officials and Native American tribal officials are now working together to improve Native American’s ability to register to vote, including introducing measures to allow Native Americans to use tribal IDs when registering to vote.

Wyoming Republicans have not abandoned efforts to suppress the vote as a cohort of GOP legislators introduced a voter ID bill (HB 192). The Republicans claimed that the voter ID bill was necessary to prevent voter fraud, even after a representative of the Wyoming Secretary of State office admitted she was unaware of any incidents of voter fraud in Wyoming. The bill failed this session.

Additionally, Democrats in Wyoming attempted to pass legislation to introduce vote-by-mail to Wyoming (HB 36), but the bill did not advance. Enacting vote-by-mail is a proven way to increase voter turnout, especially in states like Wyoming where polling places may not be accessible for all eligible voters.

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Washington D.C.

First, Let America Vote fully supports Washington D.C. becoming the 51st state! D.C. residents bear all the responsibilities of United States citizenship, but do not have true representation in Congress. This needs to change.

The D.C. Council introduced legislation that would expand voting rights and make voting more accessible. D.C. lawmakers introduced legislation (B23-324) that would have restored voting rights to individuals who are currently incarcerated for felony convictions. Every state except Maine and Vermont has stripped individuals of voting rights while they are incarcerated. The measure has not passed. Citizens should not have their voting rights stripped, and we support D.C. legislators’ attempt to restore voting rights to individuals who are incarcerated.

D.C. lawmakers also introduced a measure (B23-31) to give voters two hours of paid time off in order to vote in D.C. elections, and a bill (B23-126) that would require landlords to provide voter registration information to tenants. Neither bills passed.

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