Republicans in key electoral states continue to advance bills to clamp down on ballot access, even as voting and civil rights groups move to challenge new voting restrictions in the battleground state of Georgia.
Arizona, Texas, Michigan and Florida are among the states where lawmakers are pushing restrictions, many of them citing former President Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud as a reason to tighten the rules around voting – moves that would also hinder Democratic-leaning voters.
In Arizona, which like Georgia was crucial to President Joe Biden’s victory last November, pending bills would repeal the state’s permanent early voting list and require identification when submitting absentee ballots. In Texas, lawmakers want to ban drive-through voting and bar election officials from sending unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters. And in Michigan, a package of nearly 40 bills touches on nearly every aspect of elections – from imposing new identification requirements on absentee ballot requests to overhauling the canvassing boards that certify election results.
Republicans in Michigan say they are discussing possibly deploying an obscure state law on petition initiatives to bypass a likely veto of their election restrictions by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Bills pushed by Republicans in Florida would set new restrictions on drop boxes and mail-in voting.
These efforts all come on the heels of Georgia last week rushing through a sweeping law that limits ballot boxes, grants the state legislature more power over the state board of elections and makes it a misdemeanor to approach voters as they wait in line with food and water.
Voting advocates say they may be powerless to stop all the measures now in play in Republican-controlled states.
“It is an all-sides attack on voting rights,” said Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections for the voter advocacy group Common Cause. “The reality is that there are hundreds of suppressive proposed laws around the country.
“Honestly, it’s impossible to even keep track of them,” she said, “much less fight back.”
Here’s a deeper look at proposals in several key states:
A far-reaching election bill in Texas would make it harder to vote in several ways. It would ban the use of drive-through voting – a technique that was challenged by Republicans last year in Harris County, which includes heavily Democratic Houston, after being introduced to make it easier to cast ballots during the pandemic.
Harris County also had sought to send in mail-in ballot applications to more than 2 million voters with instructions on how to determine whether the voters qualified to vote absentee. (The state Supreme Court blocked the effort.)
Texas already sets strict limits on who can vote by mail: Those 65 or older, people with disabilities or illness, those confined to jail or those who will be out of the county during the election.
Under the proposed law disabled voters who want to cast their ballots by mail would have to prove their disability – such as providing a doctor’s note or written documentation from the Social Security Administration.
Michigan Republicans last week introduced a package of bills aimed at restricting voting access in a state that narrowly swung back to Biden in 2020.
The bills, which state Republicans describe as an effort to modernize and secure the state’s elections, include provisions that would limit ballot drop box hours, require voters to provide photo ID when applying for an absentee ballot and block unsolicited absentee ballot applications from being mailed out en masse.
Republicans are considering a way to bypass Whitmer, Ted Goodman, a spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party, told CNN.
State Republicans could blend together the bills and try to pass them through a petition initiative, If Republicans gather the more than 340,000 signatures needed, the GOP-controlled legislature could make the measure law and Whitmer could not veto it
“We plan and can make these necessary changes with the support of the people. And with or without the governor,” Goodman, told CNN on Tuesday. “We want to make it easier to vote and to protect every eligible voter’s voice.”
Michigan Senate Minority Leader Sen. Jim Ananich, a Democrat, has criticized the Republican tactics.
“They seem desperate to make sure people don’t vote,” he previously told CNN. “When people are desperate, they go to extreme measures,” Ananich said.
A key measure in Arizona would remove infrequent voters from the so-called “permanent early voting list.” The list was created with bipartisan support more than a dozen years ago and now is used by 3.2 million people who use it to automatically receive their ballots by mail for each election.
Traditionally about 80% of Arizonans vote early by mail; that surged to about 88% in in the 2020 election.
Republican lawmakers have said allowing voters to sign up in perpetuity to vote by mail increases the odds that ballots could be sent to people who have died or moved.
The measure, which has passed the Senate and is pending in the Arizona House, would remove from the voting list anyone who did not use a mail ballot in the primary and general election for two consecutive election cycles.
Had that provision been law in 2020, it would have affected about 200,000 voters, said Alex Gulotta, Arizona state director of All Voting is Local. About 50,000 of those voters were Latino, he added.
Biden won the traditionally Republican state by nearly 10,500 votes.
A separate measure would require identification on mail-in ballots, including the voter’s date of birth, driver’s license number or a voter registration number.
A 45-page bill under consideration in Florida would bring a raft of new restrictions to voting in the Sunshine State. It would limit who can return an absentee ballot on behalf of another voter, set restrictions on the use of ballot drop boxes and add new identification requirements to vote by mail.
Another bill would limit vote-by-mail applications to one election cycle. Currently, voters can apply to cast their ballots by mail roughly every two years. As a result, Floridians who cast their ballots by mail in 2020 would need to apply to do so again for the 2022 elections if the change became law.
Myrna Perez, director of the voting rights and elections program at the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice, said the myriad proposals under consideration underscore the need for congressional action on voting legislation, including an update of the Voting Rights Act.
The US Supreme Court in 2013 rendered invalid provisions of the law that required states with a history of discrimination to seek the approval of the Department of Justice or a federal court before changing their electoral policies.
“It’s not going to be feasible or possible to sit around imagining every dastardly way in which somebody would come up to try and restrict the vote,” Perez said.