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Lawmakers Have Filed an Unprecedented 108 Laws to Restrict Voting Since February

Lawmakers have filed a total of 361 bills in 47 states in 2021 seeking to restrict voting, the Brennan Center finds.

People stand in line to vote outside the Main Street Branch Library on November 3, 2020, in Huntington Beach, California.

As retaliation against Democrats taking control of Congress and the White House in the 2020 election, lawmakers in 47 states are filing record-shattering numbers of bills to restrict voting access across the country. Since mid-February, the Brennan Center for Justice reported on Thursday, lawmakers have introduced 108 bills restricting voting on top of the 253 bills they had already filed at the Brennan Center’s last count.

In total this year, state lawmakers have introduced a staggering 361 bills that restrict voting in some way, the Brennan Center has found — and they show no sign of stopping. The 108 new bills introduced in the last six weeks represent a 43 percent increase in the total number of voter suppression bills, and 55 of those bills in 24 states are moving through the legislatures, either passing a chamber or receiving committee action, such as a hearing.

Many Republicans across the country hide the fact that the bills are aimed at suppressing votes by claiming that the bills are actually about “election integrity.” But the GOP was clearly inspired by former President Donald Trump, who continually repeated lies about the election being fraudulent. Republicans took those words to heart and have been emboldened to introduce bill after bill suppressing voters and blatantly admitting that they believe “everybody shouldn’t be voting.”

Many of the bills being introduced take aim at absentee voting and early voting, and almost a quarter of the bills seek tighter ID requirements, the Brennan Center finds. Early and mail-in voting surged in 2020 as states increased the availability of both in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Republicans, reeling from their losses in 2020 and operating with the knowledge that they tend to have worse chances in elections when more people vote, are now looking to restrict both mail-in and early voting.

It wasn’t always this way. The Georgia GOP recently passed a wide-ranging omnibus bill that takes on provisions they formerly favored, such as mobile voting buses and drop boxes for absentee ballots. The new law bans voting buses and restricts drop-box locations, though it was Georgia Republicans who originally passed the state’s no-excuse absentee voting when it was largely used by Georgia’s elderly white populations. The GOP lawmakers are now trying to get that provision overturned in their fight to impose voting restrictions.

Lawmakers in Georgia, Texas and Arizona have filed the most bills aimed at voter suppression so far, the Brennan Center finds. Georgia and Arizona flipped blue in the presidential election, and Texas is potentially turning purple soon. Georgia Republicans last week passed their sweeping voter suppression bill, and bills in Texas and Arizona are currently on their way through the legislature.

More concerning is that many of the laws also target the way that elections are administered and target election officials, which could open up avenues for Republicans to outright steal elections in the future. Following partisan attacks on state and local election administrators from Trump and his army of Republican lawmakers, state legislators are now targeting local election officials. Some lawmakers are exploring the possibility of creating criminal penalties targeting election officials, the Brennan Center writes.

The omnibus bill that just passed in Georgia manipulates election administration in such a way that it could hugely favor conservatives in a state that’s already gerrymandered to favor Republicans.

The law removes the secretary of state as the head of the election board and makes it so that the majority of the election board can be picked by the Republican-controlled legislature. It also gives Republicans wide purview over who is allowed to run elections at the local level. Additionally, the law makes it easier for conservative groups to challenge voters’ eligibility and potentially get votes thrown out — precisely what the conservative group True the Vote tried to do in the state but couldn’t execute effectively.

Republicans have also passed restrictive voting bills in Arkansas, Iowa and Utah into law, the Brennan Center finds. These bills make it harder to vote with restrictions such as recategorizing voters as inactive if they miss one federal election and making it harder for them to vote early, absentee or regularly.

A bill passed in Utah, according to the Brennan Center, will make voter roll purges more prone to error because it gives county clerks just 10 days to cross-reference death certificates with voter rolls and purge voters who may have died. The bill does not require the clerks to give notice of the purge or require that the purges be audited.

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