Republicans and Democrats have gone to battle over how elections should be run at the state and federal level since the chaotic 2020 vote.
The Democrats are trying to pass the H.R.1 For The People Act, which expands voter registration, early voting, mail-in voting and introduces restrictions on campaign finance.
The GOP believes this would amount to a federal takeover of elections and has responded with a series of bills aimed at protecting voter integrity and security of elections at the state level.
In March, GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called H.R.1 an ‘unparalleled political grab’ that would consolidate Democratic power.
Donald Trump has called the bill a ‘monster’ that cannot be allowed to pass and former vice president Mike Pence said it would ‘increase opportunities for election fraud, trample the First Amendment and further erode the confidence in our elections’.
In the legislation proposed and passed in GOP-controlled states including Texas, Wisconsin and Georgia, voters would have to provide a valid drivers license or the last four digits of their social security in order to cast their ballot.
Voters would also have to fill out paperwork if taking someone who is not a relative to vote in person. The regulations would also prevent election officials from sending mail-in ballots to voters who haven’t asked for them.
Republicans claim that expanded hours for voting, wider access to mail-in ballots, and other accommodations made for the pandemic led to extensive voter fraud.
Democrats say there is no evidence for that, and that the GOP, after losing the White House and Senate in the November vote, simply want to make it harder for many people.
The party believes the new measures would make it harder for African-Americans, Native Americans and others who tend to support Democrats, to participate in elections.
The fight over the restrictions has drawn comparisons with decades ago when laws were drawn up across the south to prevent black Americans from voting.
In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed, and prohibited racial discrimination in voting by outlawing literary tests and poll taxes.
Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court upheld two provisions in Arizona that discarded votes cast at the wrong precinct on Election Day and made it illegal for an absentee ballot to be collected by anyone other then a postal worker, election official, voter caregiver, family member or household member.
The changes Republicans are pushing include:
Many states have permitted citizens, if not already registered to vote, to do so on election day with simple evidence of their residency in the state.
But the new legislation in some states demands they register early and do so with an official ID card like a driver’s licence.
Democrats and civil liberties groups claim the ID requirements hit the poor more than others, and can result in a 2-3 percent fall in voter turnout.
The legislation in Florida would also stop people from going door-to-door to drum up votes.
Many states expanded voting by mail in 2020 to address the challenge of the coronavirus, but Republicans believe this lead to fraud.
In the 2020 election the number of people who voted by mail more than doubled from four years earlier, resulting in many ballots being delivered late and not counted until days after election day.
It caused chaos in the aftermath of the November vote, with states including Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania not finishing their count for days and Joe Biden not being called the winner for almost a week.
Georgia cut in half the time allowed to obtain a mail-in ballot.
Arizona proposed to require that every mailed ballot be post-marked five days before an election.
Colorado and other states send mail-in ballots to every registered voter. In June Wisconsin’s Republican legislature voted to require anyone wanting a mail-in ballot to formally request it in writing, with a copy of their ID.
Georgia and other states have moved to limit the availability of drop-boxes for mail ballots.
Early voting limits:
Early in-person voting was expanded during the pandemic because of social distancing and to avoid lines at the polls on election day.
Legislators in some states are shortening the number of days and the hours for early voting.
Democrats say it makes it difficult for people who work long hours to be able to vote and disproportionately impacts poor communities and minorities.
Help for voters:
On election day in Georgia last year voters in largely Democrat, African-American districts had to wait in line for hours.
To help them with the long wait volunteers handed out water and snacks.
Georgia has banned people from providing snacks.
Republicans also want to prevent people from delivering ballots to election offices for those who cannot do so themselves.
The Democrats believe this is tactic is being used to stop Native Americans who live on reservations from voting. A new law in Montana bans organized ballot collection on reservations.
Democrats in Washington D.C. want to see federal legislation enacted to protect voting rights.
Their ‘For the People’ Act would create a national automatic system for registering voters and established national standards for mail-in and absentee ballot.
In June, Senate Republicans blocked the legislation from moving forward in that chamber after the House approved it.
That June failure increased focus on the Senate filibuster, which requires any legislation to have 60 votes in order to move forward.
If left in place, odds of the Democrats’ two voting rights measures – For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act – becoming law are slim.
Many Democrats, including some Biden allies, have expressed frustration with the lack of White House push to reform the filibuster.
‘I’m not filibustering now,’ Biden said in Philadelphia after his speech, when he was asked about the issue.
Some Biden supporters point out he was elected with broad support from black voters, who are at most risk from the new state voting restrictions.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, a longtime Biden ally, urged this week that the filibuster be modified for voting rights legislation.
Clyburn told Politico if the Democrats’ two voting laws don’t pass Congress: ‘Democrats can kiss the majority goodbye.’
The Democrats’ second bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, would:
- Create a pathway for citizens or the federal government to challenge new voter laws in the courts, particularly if parties can show the new law infringes on minority voting rights.
- Require public notice for any changes made to voting laws in a state or political subdivision.
- Provide new rules for polling places on Indian reservations that require states to pay for polling places at no cost to tribes.
- Require many categories of changes in state or local election procedures to go through a process called ‘preclearance’ — essentially, approval from the Justice Department’s civil rights division — before being implemented.