Republican state lawmakers show no signs of slowing the “tidal wave of restrictive election legislation” that intensified across the country in 2021, according to a new analysis from the Brennan Center for Justice on Tuesday which warns that such attacks are expected to continue or even intensify in the New Year.
“Congress has the power to take bold action now to protect American voters from the types of restrictions enacted this year and the looming threats to voters and the elections that may be imposed in 2022 and beyond.”
The past year has seen an undeniable acceleration in the passage of anti-democratic state laws, the Brennan Center reported on Tuesday, with state legislatures enacting more voting restrictions in 2021 than any year since the organization began. to follow these laws in 2011. Nineteen states adopted 34 restrictive laws between January 1 and December 7.
The analysis highlights several categories of anti-voting restrictions, including laws restricting access to postal voting, new or expanded voter identification requirements, criminalization of “ordinary and lawful behavior of election officials” that try to help voters; and laws allowing voter purges.
The Brennan Center also pointed to “a new trend” in which “lawmakers have introduced bills to allow partisan actors to interfere with electoral processes or even reject election results entirely,” such as HB 2720 from Arizona, which would allow state legislatures to reject election results; and Texas SB 7, which would allow elected judges to do the same.
Journalist and voting rights expert Ari Berman noted that despite the frantic race by Republican lawmakers to pass laws they say aim to maintain “electoral integrity” – with 440 restrictive voting laws proposed in 2021 – no State has found no evidence of widespread electoral fraud.
By 2022, at least 13 bills have been pre-tabled in state legislatures in four states – Arizona, Missouri, New Hampshire, and South Carolina – meaning they will receive the top priority when the new legislative session begins.
“These early indicators, coupled with the ongoing mobilization around the Big Lie (the same false rhetoric about voter fraud that led to this year’s unprecedented wave of vote suppression bills), suggest that the efforts aimed at restricting and undermining the vote will continue to be a serious threat. in 2022, ”reported the Brennan Center.
Dozens of what the report called “postponement bills” – which were not resolved in 2021 and will be debated next year – focus on restricting voters’ access to postal voting . Republicans in Pennsylvania and Kansas are aiming to shorten the deadlines for applying for and delivering ballots, while lawmakers in Ohio will continue to debate whether election officials can help people who return the ballots.
Five postponement bills propose criminal penalties for election officials who send out unsolicited ballots or for people who help voters, including people with disabilities, return the ballots.
Of at least 74 pre-tabled bills, at least seven also target postal voting, “including shortening the time period during which a postal vote can be requested, eliminating Covid-19 as an excuse to vote by mail and expanding the grounds on which a postal ballot can be rejected. In at least five states, six pre-tabled bills for 2022 seek to establish “illegitimate partisan review boards of election results,” reported the group.
South Carolina’s HB 4550, for example, would amend the state’s code of laws “to create a joint committee called the ‘Restore Election Integrity Now’ (REIN) Committee,” which would be empowered to review security. elections, the accuracy of the electoral process and other aspects of voting.
“These reviews have generally been designed to set the stage for future efforts to suppress votes and reverse election results,” the Brennan Center said, noting that four of the six pre-tabled bills focus on the continuation of “questionable and politically motivated reviews of the 2020 election results” like those launched in six states in 2021, while two would set up review boards for future elections.
Both are part of “a disturbing legislative trend,” the organization said, in which “partisan state lawmakers have empowered other partisan actors who are not part of the election administration process to access and examine the ballots and other documents “.
The Brennan Center has identified several states, including Arizona, Texas, Michigan, Missouri and Pennsylvania, as “key states to watch” over the coming year, noting that their legislatures have already passed several bills. restrictive laws and are about to try to pass more. .
In Texas, SB 1, one of the toughest anti-voting laws in the country that “makes it harder for voters with disabilities and language barriers to get help, limits the ability of election workers to end the harassment by poll observers; and banning 24/7 drive-thru voting, among other measures, ”placed the state on the list of key states.
Michigan has also been identified as a hot spot for voter suppression in 2022, with anti-voting rights activists staging a voting initiative that would place new demands on voters, such as including the last four digits of their vote. social security number on their registration on the electoral rolls or on postal ballot requests. .
“There are solutions to this alarming and unprecedented attack on our democracy,” the Brennan Center noted. “Congress has the power to take bold action now to protect American voters from the types of restrictions enacted this year and the looming threats to voters and the elections that may be imposed in 2022 and beyond.”
The organization urged the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Advancement of Voting Rights Act, both of which were passed by the House but remain stranded in the Senate due to the systematic obstruction and the very small majority of Democrats.
“These attacks on the right to vote will continue in 2022, “the group tweeted.” The Senate must protect our democracy.