The ongoing debate over a national voting standard will climax, for now, on Capitol Hill this week.
Millions of American voters may be wondering how the changes in key states and the failure to enact a new national standard will affect their voting records in the upcoming election, which for most people will be the election. mid-term in November.
I spoke to CNN national political writer Fredreka Schouten about the practical details of what will and won’t change. Read his latest story here. Or check out our Q&A below, conducted via email and slightly edited for length.
What would a national election standard look like?
WHAT MATTERS: What would the new voting standard that Democrats are advocating mean for the average voter? How would this change the voting experience in the United States?
SCHOUTEN: If Congress somehow managed to pass elements of the federal Free Voting Act, it would set a floor for voting procedures nationwide.
This would include, among other things:
- Make Election Day a federal holiday.
- Allow people to register to vote AND vote on the same day. In Texas, for example, the deadline to register to vote for the March 1 primary is fast approaching: January 31.
- Expand the IDs needed to vote.
- Make it easy to vote without excuses by mail.
Big changes, but they seem unlikely to happen — given the deadlock in the Senate.
What do the new voting restrictions actually do?
WHAT MATTERS: President Joe Biden framed this efforts for voting rights turning between democracy and autocracy. How, at the end of this year, will most Americans see their ability to vote changed?
SCHOUTEN: If, as expected, the Senate fails to enact federal suffrage legislation, people could very well see more restrictions on voting ahead of this year’s election — especially if they live in southern states. battlefield.
The ground rules have already moved from 2020 to 2021.
For example, in Georgia – after a record number of voters opted to vote by mail during the pandemic in 2020 – Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed a new law last year that, among other things, required a identity to vote by mail.
This contrasts with the 2020 election, when officials used signatures on voters’ ballots to confirm their identity.
Based on the bills state lawmakers are introducing this month, we could see new voting restrictions enacted in several key states, including Georgia, Florida and Arizona.
A number of new proposals target drop boxes, which many voters used to hand in their ballots in 2020.
Can these changes influence the elections?
WHAT MATTERS: Republican legislatures in key states, in the name of security, have put curb postal voting and early voting. Is there anything that suggests how these changes will affect participation?
SCHOUTEN: This year’s elections will provide the first robust test of the effects of these new restrictions.
A troubling sign has emerged in recent days in Texas, where state law has imposed new identification requirements for voting by mail.
As our colleague Kelly Mena recently reported, election officials in some of Texas’ largest counties are reporting that hundreds of mail-in ballot applications are being rejected. Why?
The new law requires voters to include the last four digits of their Social Security number or driver’s license number on their mail-in ballot applications. This corresponds to the information contained in the local archives. But clerks say people don’t understand the rules or have forgotten the numbers they used when registering to vote in the first place.
Could this confusion affect turnout? Absoutely.
How does the act of voting vary from state to state?
WHAT MATTERS: Democrats want a new national voting standard applied to every state. Is access to the ballot really so different from state to state?
SCHOUTEN: Yes quite. States set the rules for voting, and they vary widely.
Under a new law taking effect this year in Nevada, every active voter in the state will automatically receive a mail-in ballot — unless they specifically opt out.
In Texas, which we discussed above, only certain categories of people can vote by mail. They include voters with disabilities, people over 65, and people who will be out of county on Election Day and will not be able to vote in person.
WHAT MATTERS: John Lewis’ Free Suffrage Act and Advancing Voting Rights Act are almost guaranteed to fail since Democrats lack the votes to break a Republican filibuster. Will this be the end of the debate on Capitol Hill?
SCHOUTEN: Time is certainly running out to pass a sweeping overhaul of election laws if Democrats don’t get it right this week.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is working on another election-related overhaul. They want to tackle a murky 1887 law known as the Voter Count Act that governs the process of certifying votes from the states Electoral College.
On January 6, 2021, then-Vice President Mike Pence resisted calls from then-President Donald Trump and his allies to exploit perceived weaknesses in the law and insert himself into the vote-counting process to eliminate Biden’s electoral list.
The idea of tweaking the law to clarify the role of the vice president has gained traction on Capitol Hill in recent weeks. So we might see more debate on this issue. And voting and civil rights advocates are certain to press lawmakers to broaden the scope of a rewrite of the voter count law if the free-to-vote law fails.