How New Laws Could Trip Up Midterm Election Voters 

States across the U.S. have enacted more than 30 new voting restrictions since 2020, including voter ID requirements, and mail-in ballot limitations. Most of the laws were Republican and introduced in the Red regions.

The voting laws are fueling tensions between Democrats and Republicans ahead of the midterm elections. 

Republicans have largely embraced former President Donald Trump’s false claims of voting fraud in the 2020 election. They have enacted new laws claiming that they are necessary to ensure election integrity. Democrats say the new restrictions are aimed at making it harder for voters who traditionally back the Democratic Party to vote. 

Eleven states imposed stricter voter identification requirements since 2020. 

Opponents of ID measures do not object to there being a requirement for voters to verify their identity when voting. Having identification is already standard in every state. But what is opposed is the means used to verify identification. 

Many democracies in Europe have more ubiquitous government-issued IDs. But studies have found that millions of voters in the U.S. lack photo ID. 

Two of the most controversial 2021 laws changed the ID rules for absentee ballots and mail-in ballots. 

Georgia now requires voters who do not have a driver’s license or state ID card to include inside of the absentee ballot a photocopy of another government-issued ID. Many voters may not be able to easily produce one. Previously identities were certified by signature. 

Texan laws permit voters to use a broader set of identification when applying for and casting mail-in ballots. However, Texas law automatically rejects IDs if the voter uses an ID number that is different from the one that was provided when they registered to vote. 

It turns out this is more common than one would assume. In the primary election, officials rejected a whopping one in every eight mail-in ballots, meaning 12.4 percent of votes were thrown away. It vastly exceeded the 0.8 percent rejection rate in the 2020 election. 

Advocates of the Georgia and Texas measures say they are necessary to ensure that voters are who they claim to be and cite studies that show some voter ID laws have not depressed turnout. 

Opponents say there is no need for stricter ID rules because voter fraud is already vanishingly rare, and point to studies showing that voter ID laws in states such as North Carolina reduced turnout by voters of color.

Another new update to laws has been seen in requirements to provide an excuse to vote by mail. Since 2020, 19 states have enacted laws to make it harder to vote by mail. Some made it easier, and some made it harder. 

Another way voting laws are changing is because the U.S. does not have compulsory voter registration through a centralized system, unlike many democratic countries. As a result, states must periodically review lists of registered voters. 

Since 2020, seven states adopted new laws that facilitated the delisting of voters. Advocates of the laws say they are necessary for ensuring only eligible voters are on the list. The opponents say the laws just make it harder for voters to know they were removed, or to remedy wrongful removals. 

Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis enacted a law he claimed would improve election security by requiring election supervisors to clean up voter rolls annually rather than every two years and establish an office to investigate “irregularities.” 

Voter advocates have criticized the Florida law, saying it has created more opportunities for voters to be wrongly purged from lists and intimidated by investigators. 

Election administration has also come into focus. The U.S. has one of the world’s most fractured election administration systems. 

In most states, elections are overseen by elected or appointed state officials. Inside of each county, elections are run by local officials, sometimes in conjunction with nonpartisan or bipartisan election boards.

Few state-level voting laws sought to change election management authority before the hotly contested 2020 election, in which Trump falsely blamed his loss on voter fraud. But the 2020 elections, 25 states have brought in new laws that shifted power away from traditional election managers and, in many cases, ceded control to partisan actors. 

Advocates of the laws, overwhelmingly Republican, argued they would bolster oversight of local election officials.

Such laws are unusual in other democracies. The human rights body Council of Europe adopted guidelines in 2010 that called for high-level positions within election-management bodies to be “dispersed among parties” to ensure balance.

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