Others have made it more difficult to vote by mail: Florida has reduced the hours of operation for ballot drop-off boxes and will also require voters to request a new mail ballot for each election, among other changes. It is possible that Texas will follow the lead of Georgia and Iowa in prohibiting elections officials from automatically mailing absentee ballot applications to voters. A voter’s signature on an absentee ballot must match the signature on the voter registration form in Idaho and Kansas. Other states may require this.
Most notably, some of the provisions are aimed squarely at Democratic-leaning demographics and groups, such as Black, Latino, and younger voters. While Georgia has reduced the number of drop boxes permitted in the metropolitan Atlanta area from 94 to an estimated 23, the state has increased the number of drop boxes permitted in some other parts of the state, including some rural areas. Drive-through voting and other measures that were adopted by Harris County, a Democratic stronghold, last year are being challenged by Texas Republicans. Montana has ruled that student identification cards are no longer considered sufficient proof of citizenship.
There are a couple of laws that operate in the opposite direction. The expansion of early voting was approved by bipartisan groups of legislators in Kentucky and Oklahoma, while the state of Louisiana made it easier for felons to vote. Several Democratic-leaning states, such as Vermont and Nevada, have also taken steps to make voting more convenient for their citizens.
And the impact?
That isn’t so straightforward to figure out. Democratic turnout will almost certainly be reduced more than Republican turnout as a result of the laws, which have a good chance of being implemented. Even a small effect can have a significant impact on an election in closely divided states such as Arizona, Florida, or Georgia — or in a competitive congressional district.
Nonetheless, recent Republican efforts to keep Democratic turnout at bay date back to the Obama administration, and they appear to have been unsuccessful thus far. On Monday, Bill Scher wrote in RealClearPolitics that while Republicans’ intentions behind restrictive election laws may be nefarious, the legislation’s impact has been negligible thus far. Because of Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts, it appears that the restrictions have not been significant enough to deter people from casting their votes.
However, the Republicans’ most recent restrictions — and those that may follow, as in Texas — are more significant, and as a result, there is greater uncertainty about how they will be implemented.
According to Myrna Pérez, a long-time elections expert, “Our democracy works best when we believe that everyone should be able to participate in free, fair, and accessible elections” (before Biden nominated her to a federal judgeship). “And while it is possible that their self-interested anti-voter efforts will backfire, there is no doubt that our democracy is worse as a result of their efforts.”
The Supreme Court, on the other hand, has taken a different stance. His Republican-appointed majority has ruled on numerous occasions that states have the right to restrict voting access.