Barriers to Voting: A State-by-State Roundup & What We Can Do
In 2020, Americans turned out in record numbers to have our voices heard at the ballot box, overcoming a pandemic and the deliberate barriers to voting placed in our way.
Unfortunately, some politicians see this unprecedented expansion of democracy as a threat to their power, and are responding accordingly: this year, state legislators have introduced four times as many bills to restrict people’s access to the vote as they had at the same time last year. We’re going to break a few of these bills down for you, and give you a few ideas of what you can do to help.
You might’ve heard about this one.
On March 25th, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed SB 202 into law, a behemoth of a bill which represents a massive step back for access to the ballot box in Georgia. SB 202 limits the freedom to vote by (among other things):
Requiring voters to provide ID to apply for an absentee ballot,
Restricting the hours, number, and accessibility of ballot drop boxes,
Giving control of county election boards to partisan state-level officials, and
Criminalizing giving water and food to voters waiting in line to vote.
Here's what you can do:
Join a text bank to tell members of congress to pass H.R. 1 and H.R. 4 and expand voting rights for all.
Join the Georgia NAACP and encourage Georgia business leaders to speak out against the bill, and other efforts to suppress voting access in Georgia.
In 2020, 1.7 million Iowans voted-- more than 75% of the state’s registered voters. Of those, over 63% cast their ballots by mail. In response, on March 8th, Iowa governor Kim Reynolds signed SF 413 into law. The sweeping bill is patently anti-voter, setting deliberate barriers to voting for Iowans at every step of the voting process by:
Moving voters to “inactive status” after missing just one election, putting them at risk of being wrongly purged from voter rolls,
Cutting down the amount of time voters have to apply for and return mail ballots,
Limiting the location and availability of ballot drop boxes,
Shortening the early voting period by nine days,
Limiting the number of early voting locations, and
Reducing poll hours on Election Day.
Here’s what you can do:
Donate to the League of United Latin American Citizens, who, represented by voting rights lawyer Marc Elias, are challenging the new restrictions in court. You can also support Elias’s organization, Democracy Docket, directly.
In a banner year for anti-voter legislation, Texas state lawmakers have introduced the most voting-restrictive bills of any state in the country (49 bills!). In the dead of night last week (seriously), the Texas State Senate passed SB 7, putting the ball in the State House’s court to pass the companion HB 6. SB 7 includes:
Statewide limits on polling-place hours, including a provision forbidding early vote poll sites being open past 7pm,
a ban on unstaffed ballot drop boxes and drive-through voting (both of which were most utilized in metropolitan areas in 2020),
a requirement for a doctor’s note (seriously) for voters with disabilities to gain access to a mail ballot,
granting permission to partisan poll watchers the right to videotape *any voter* they deem suspicious, and
making it a felony for a public official to encourage anyone to submit an absentee ballot application who did not request one.
Here’s what you can do:
If you’re a business owner, join Fair Elections Texas, a nonpartisan coalition of business and civic leaders standing against voting-restrictive legislation
Follow and uplift the organizing efforts of the Texas Civil Rights Project, who are tracking these bills closely and raising awareness on the ground.
11.1 million voters cast ballots in Florida in 2020, and 4.8 million of them-- 43 percent-- voted by mail. Of those, about 1.5 million used drop boxes. In 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSanties made passing the anti-voter bill SB 90 a top priority. The bill:
Eliminates ballot drop boxes,
Requires voters who wish to vote by mail to request a ballot each election cycle (under the current system, one request ensures a voter receives mail ballots for two cycles),
Limits who can handle another person’s ballot to immediate family, and
Imposes harsh signature match requirements on ballots.
The bill has been met with vocal opposition from organizations ranging from the non-partisan Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections to a coalition of Black pastors, who described the bill as voter suppression grounded in systemic racism.
Here’s what you can do:
Donate to the ACLU of Florida, who has been out front in the fight against SB 90.
Email the Senate Rules Committee and urge them to vote no on Senate Bill 90.
Lift up the voices of Black Floridian community leaders, who are affected first and worst by voter suppression efforts like SB 90.
Americans made our voices heard like never before in 2020, and now, some want to take our power away again. Remember: the power of elected officials comes from us, and we get a say in what becomes law in our country. Take action today, and continue making your voice heard.
Thanks for reading, y’all! Talk soon.
“American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” – James Baldwin