• The Voter Formation Project

Barriers to Voting: A(nother) State-by-State Roundup

As we covered in a previous post, 2021 has shown us that not everyone is interested in making our democracy fairer. Following an election that saw unprecedented levels of voter turnout, we’re seeing an equally unprecedented push for legislation restricting access to the ballot box.



We’re here to guide you through the chaos: we’re going to break a few more of these bills down for you, tell you what they actually mean, and give you a few ideas of what you can do to help. For weekly updates on these bills and many others, we highly recommend following Marc Elias’s Democracy Docket, which has been leading in the fight against voter suppression across the country.


Texas

Texas’s S.B. 7 has bounced back and forth between the Texas House and Senate a few times: it was approved by the Senate in early May, then sent to the House, where it was modified* and sent back to the Senate. This week, a closed-door panel of lawmakers will decide on a final version of the law. All very cloak and dagger-- here’s what we’re expecting to see:

  • A ban on drive-through and 24-hour voting,

  • Limitations on the allocation of voting machines to counties, restricting the availability of polling places in larger cities, and

  • Expanded autonomy and authority for partisan poll watchers.


Here’s why it’s a problem:

  • Drive-through and 24-hour voting was used extensively in cities: in Harris County, home to Houston, more than 127,000 voters used drive-through voting, and more than 10,000 people cast ballots in a single day of 24-hour voting,

  • An analysis by the Texas Tribune found that proposed limits on the number of polling places would have a disproportionate effect on voters of color, and

  • Poll watchers might sound benign, but in 2020, partisan poll watchers sought to use a range of intimidation tactics to keep Black and Brown voters away from the polls. In a state with a legacy of Jim Crow? No thanks!


Here’s what you can do:

  • Write to Texas elected officials and let them know what you think. MOVE Texas, a nonpartisan nonprofit working to build power in underrepresented youth communities has a helpful template here.


*One notable modification: language referring to the bill’s role in maintaining the “purity of the ballot box” - a direct callback to Jim Crow era all-white primaries - was removed.


Florida

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed SB 90 into law during a live broadcast on Fox and Friends. No comment there. The bill:

  • Limits the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots,

  • Adds restrictive ID requirements for requesting an absentee ballot,

  • Requires voters to request an absentee ballot for each election cycle, rather than every four years, and

  • Limits who can collect and drop off ballots.


Here’s why it’s a problem:

  • 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.

  • Voters of color and shift workers are most reliant on after-hour drop boxes. Given disparities in the number and accessibility of polling places, it’s often challenging to organize transportation from under-served communities to the polls during working hours.


Here’s what you can do:


After the progress on voting access that we saw in 2020, the passage of laws like these can be disheartening. We get it, but we also know that a movement like ours can’t be silenced by a few politicians. We’re going to keep fighting to make the electorate look more like our country, and we hope you’ll join us.


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