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2021 has been a bad year for voting rights. Now the state legislatures have returned for their sessions. What will 2022 bring? The first returns are not encouraging.
Today, the Brennan Center released our Voting Laws Roundup, which lists legislative assaults on voting rights across the country. As of Jan. 14, lawmakers in 27 states had introduced, pre-introduced or passed more than 250 bills containing restrictive provisions, compared to 75 such bills in 24 states a year ago. This is a tripling of the proposals aimed at restricting the vote. The bills would reduce access to mail-in ballots, limit or eliminate same-day voter registration, require proof of citizenship to vote or register, or make it harder for people with disabilities to vote.
Equally worrying, lawmakers are also aiming to increase partisan interference in the administration of elections. Lawmakers in thirteen states have pre-introduced or introduced 41 such bills. Some would give the state legislature the ultimate power to overrule election results. Others threaten electoral officials with civil or criminal penalties or entrust partisan actors with the counting of votes.
It can be easy to lose sight of another positive trend: in some states, legislators are seeking to expand access to the vote. Officials in at least 32 states have introduced, pre-introduced or passed more than 399 bills expanding voting access, up from 286 such bills in 30 states a year ago. In some states, bad bills and good bills are jostling for support.
For decades, the right to vote has been a national objective, its protection a national obligation. Now the Voting Rights Act is gutted by the Supreme Court, Congress can’t pass vital legislation, and the big lie has taken hold. Some states are backsliding, while others aim to build a modern and inclusive democracy. If we do not want to find ourselves a house divided, we must renew the effort to make our democracy a national mission again.