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  • The Voter Formation Project

Musings From the Bright Side

We’ll admit it: this blog has been a bit of a downer lately. But today marks a new day: VFP is officially looking on the bright side. We can’t promise we’ll stay on the bright side forever. But, at the very least, we’ll stop playing the new Zoe Wees album on loop. We have a lot to celebrate!

By now, you’ve heard a lot about states restricting access to the ballot box. But you might not have heard about the 14 states that have passed laws expanding the right to vote.

(Graphic courtesy of the Brennan Center)

That’s right. Here are a few highlights:

  • In New York and Washington State, the formerly incarcerated and people with past convictions will now automatically regain the right to vote. This brings the total number of states that automatically restore voting rights to 19 (we know: could be better!).

  • In six states (kudos to Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, North Dakota and Virginia), mail voting just became easier. In some states, this comes through expanded access to ballot drop boxes, and, in others, through newly codified procedures for ballot curing (that’s the process through which you fix a mail or absentee ballot that was filled out incorrectly).

  • Six more states (Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Montana, North Dakota, and Virginia) took steps to make the vote more accessible to people with disabilities. How this is *actually* done varies by state, but ranges from making polling places more accessible to adding penalties for “deceiving a disabled elector” (@ Montana). Yes, I read all of the bills. I do it because I love each and every one of you.

  • After 50 years of being subject to preclearance under the Voting Rights Act, Virginia passed its own version: the Voting Rights Act of Virginia. I’ll let one of the bill’s authors speak for herself on the importance of the new law:

“There are a lot of remnants from Jim Crow that still exist in Virginia,” said Tram Nguyen, a co-executive director at New Virginia Majority, who also worked on the bill. “Passing the Voting Rights Act of Virginia — being the first state in the South, the first state that was covered under Section 5 of preclearance to do it — signals to the country that here’s a state that has this dark history. And we are trying to get beyond that.”

In what’s often thought of as a dark time for voting rights in the United States, stories like these are a beacon of hope. Here’s to more states acknowledging their dark histories, and moving beyond them, as Virginia has shown they can.

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

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