October 6, 2022

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A voter fills out a ballot for New York

Proceed with caution: How new US laws could fool voters this November

Republicans, who have largely accepted former President Donald Trump’s false claims about fraud in the 2020 election, say measures are needed to ensure election integrity. Democrats say the move is intended to make it more difficult for voters who traditionally support the Democratic Party to vote.

Most of the measures have been supported by Republican state legislators and opposed by Democrats, but the dividing line is not pure red and blue. Debate over any law sometimes gets down to the nitty gritty of the details.

Voter ID

Ten US states have introduced stricter voter ID regulations since 2020, according to the Brennan Center for Justice and Voting Rights Lab, which tracks voting laws across the country.

Opponents of voter ID measures don’t object to requiring voters to verify their IDs when they cast their ballots — which is already standard in every state — but they object to the methods used to verify them.

Unlike many European democracies, where government-issued identification cards are ubiquitous, surveys show that millions of voters in the United States lack photo identification.

Two of the most controversial laws of 2021 changed identification rules for absentee or mailed ballots.

Voters who do not have a driver’s license or state ID card in Georgia now must include a photocopy of another government-issued ID with their ballot application, which many voters cannot easily produce. In the past, the identity of voters was verified without comparing signatures.

Texas law allows voters to use a wide range of IDs when applying for ballots and voting. But these will be automatically rejected if the voter uses an ID number other than the one provided while registering his/her vote.

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In the March primary in Texas, election officials rejected one in eight ballots, according to data from the Secretary of State’s office. That percentage — 12.4% — is higher than Texas’ 0.8% rejection rate in the 2020 presidential election. Officials blame the new law for most of the increase, according to local news reports.

Supporters of the Georgia and Texas measures, which require voters to verify who they are, show that some voter ID laws have not reduced turnout. Opponents say stricter ID laws aren’t needed because voter fraud is already rare, pointing to studies showing voter ID laws in states like North Carolina have reduced voter turnout for voters of color.

Vote by mail

Postal ballot laws in the United States are very complex. According to the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), only 11 countries in the world do not require voters to give up a reason to vote by mail.

Two-thirds of US states fall into this category. But as of 2020, 18 states have passed laws that make it more difficult for voters to request, receive or cast a mail-in ballot, according to the Brennan Center and Voting Rights Lab.

Some states’ laws limited postal voting in one way and loosened it in others. The Kentucky Republican Legislature has passed a law that allows voters to retrieve their ballots if they make a mistake, but also limits the time period for applying for a ballot.

Supporters of restricting voting by mail say it increases the cost of elections and creates opportunities for ballots to be intercepted by unsuspecting recipients who can cast fraudulent ballots. Supporters of expanding mail-in voting say restricting it is a hindrance to voters who can’t get to the polls.

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Maintenance of electoral rolls

Unlike many democracies, the United States does not have mandatory voter registration through a centralized system. As a result, states must periodically review their lists of registered voters to ensure they are up-to-date.

As of 2020, seven states have enacted laws allowing voters to be removed from voter rolls. They say only eligible voters who support the laws should be on the rolls. But opponents say the laws make it harder for voters to know they’ve been revoked or to correct unfair revocations.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis passed a bill in April requiring election officials to clean up voter rolls every year instead of every two years and improving election security by creating a state election crime bureau. Elections. Voter advocates have criticized the law, saying it creates more opportunities for voters to be falsely removed from voter rolls and threatened by investigators at the new agency.

Part of the U.S. nonpartisan election administration

The United States has one of the most fragmented electoral systems in the world. In most US states, elections are conducted by elected or appointed state officials. In each county, elections are conducted by local officials such as clerks and judges, sometimes in conjunction with nonpartisan or bipartisan election commissions.

Ahead of the 2020 election, Trump falsely attributed his defeat to voter fraud, and some state-level election laws sought to change election administration jurisdiction.

But since those elections, 25 states have passed laws stripping away the power of traditional election managers and, in many cases, shifting control to partisan actors, according to the Voting Rights Lab. Supporters of these laws, mainly Republicans, argued that they would strengthen oversight by local election officials.

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Such laws are rare in other democracies. The Council of European Human Rights Organizations adopted guidelines in 2010 that senior positions within electoral bodies should be “divided between parties” to ensure balance.