EDITORIAL: BlackPAC- Landing Page_NewsOne_September 2022
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Hands Holding Up Their Voting Cards On A Dark Blue Base

Voting rights is on the ballot Source: diane555 / Getty

Midterm elections are quickly approaching, with important races happening up and down the ballot. While most of the emphasis is placed on congressional races, notably the U.S. Senate, voters will have an opportunity to decide who will lead important state and local offices.

With the rise of election conspiracy theorists and deniers running for political office, including positions that oversee elections and election integrity, the stakes are high in 2022. The “big lie,” false claims about the validity of the 2020 election escalated efforts to restrict voting rights through false claims about persisting fraud.

Regardless of personal party affiliation or leaning, abortion and reproductive health, protecting and expanding voting rights, gun control and unsettled issues like Medicaid expansion are on the ballot this year. While unemployment rates have declined since the height of the pandemic, the economic recovery hasn’t been equally experienced by all.

Changing these issues, along with many others, starts with casting a ballot on or before Nov. 8. Understanding the new changes with a bit of planning can go a long way to ensuring your vote counts.

Read along to find out about some of the changes since 2020 and how to find the information you need to cast your ballot successfully.

Many election law changes are a continuation of the “big lie”

In the past two years, state legislators have introduced and passed restrictive voting laws that directly impact the ability of everyday people to make their voices heard and in turn, affect the laws and policies of their respective states.

An August report from the Brennan Center for Justice found that white racial resentment was a factor in the introduction of restrictive voting laws. According to the report, “racially diverse states controlled by Republicans [were] far more likely to introduce and pass restrictive provisions.” These restrictions are also highly partisan, with the most restrictive bills almost entirely passed without bipartisan support.

Despite the global pandemic, 2020 boasted the highest voter turnout in over a century. State lawmakers responded by introducing over 500 restrictive bills. A June 2022 analysis from FiveThirtyEight found that 56 restrictive voting laws have been passed in 24 states since 2020.

Overview of changes and steps to take to remain eligible 

Election integrity and ballot access are not inherently partisan issues. Ensuring all eligible voters have access to an equitable process should be the goal of anyone who claims to serve in the best interest of democracy.

The Voting Rights Lab also maintains a state voting rights tracker with an overview of legislative changes in all 50 states since 2020.

Voter Registration

FiveThirtyEight reported that 17 states had made changes to the voter registration process since 2020. While deadlines vary, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 set a minimum standard for voter registration in federal elections. In federal elections, registration deadlines can be no more than 30 days before Election Day.

Wisconsin, Michigan, California and Illinois are among the 18 states and Washington, D.C. that adopted same-day voter registration through Election Day. North Carolina and Montana have same-day voter registration during the early voting period

At the same time, Pennsylvania expanded voter registration opportunities after the governor expanded the list of state agencies where potential voters can register.

If you are already registered to vote, great! But it doesn’t hurt to double-check your registration status. Also, if you haven’t voted in recent elections, some states may mark you as inactive. So, check early and update your registration if necessary.

Mail-in voting

After record absentee ballot use in the 2020 election and Georgia’s 2021 senate runoff, Republican-led legislature in many states tightened requirements for requesting absentee ballots. Other restrictions included prohibiting and criminalizing dropping off a mail ballot for someone else.

Florida, Delaware, Oklahoma, Georgia and Texas adopted various policies that required voters to add an identification number from a specified source, such as their license or state I.D., or the last four digits of their social security number. Florida and Texas require the number to match the registration file. Voters who do not have an identification number or social security number on file and wish to vote by mail should update their registrations.

Rejection of mail-in ballot applications increased in Texas and Georgia during their respective primaries. Changes to identification requirements in both states increased the difficulty of casting a ballot by mail. Additional scrutiny on alleged signature match issues raises the need for clear ways to cure any alleged issues.

Earlier this year, Georgia Republicans moved to curb the use of secure ballot drop boxes. Previously, secured ballot drop boxes were strategically placed in counties across the state, making it easier for voters to return their drop boxes. Voters in urban and suburban areas of the state

In Wisconsin, the state’s Supreme Court banned drop boxes in the state. The 4-3 decision found that since Wisconsin law doesn’t mention drop boxes, they are illegal. Reinstating drop boxes would take a state legislature willing to update the law and a governor motivated to sign it into law. Another ruling prevents clerks from using verifiable information to fill in missing information for a witness address on mail ballots.

If you request a mail-in ballot, find out if your county or state has a way to track your ballot requests. After the major push for using mail-in ballots, many states adopted systems for tracking ballot requests and making sure the ballots were received and counted.

But if it’s getting closer to election day and you still don’t have a ballot, it may be wise to have your ballot canceled and vote in person early or on Election Day.

Early In-Person Voting

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, forty-six states permit some form of voting ahead of election day. Different states refer to “early” voting in different ways, with some calling it early voting and others referring to in-person absentee voting.

Early voting offers greater flexibility for voters. Also, some states and the District of Columbia permit Saturday and/or Sunday voting ahead of the general election. Early voting locations are different from your election day polling location and vice versa.

Voter challenges and voter roll purges

Numerous states made changes to rules for voter roll list maintenance. While the Voting Rights Lab found the results to be mixed or not yet known, states like Arizona, Kansas and Pennsylvania restrict voting rights. The Arizona purge bill would require officials to check for people flagged as being allegedly noncitizens and remove them from the rolls. The law is blocked from taking effect in the midterm election.

Proof of citizenship

As reported by the Associated Press, a new Mississippi law requires new voters to provide proof of citizenship if a state and federal database raises questions about the person’s citizenship status. Arizona, Texas, Florida and Tennessee also adopted provisions that require searching various databases for citizenship data to search for noncitizens on voter rolls. “The Voting Rights Lab describes this as a “troubling legislative trend” with a great likelihood of flagging U.S. citizens as non-citizens posing an additional barrier to the ballot box.

Prohibiting Line warming

Another change that made headlines was the prohibition of handing out snacks and drinks to voters waiting in line. Commonly known as “line warming,” many groups began providing comfort and entertainment near polling sites with long lines and excessive wait times. These efforts are led by non-partisan civic engagement organizations and volunteers, not candidates and campaigns. Most voting rights advocates have made food, drinks and other giveaways available to all people regardless of whether they are voting or whom they may have voted for.

Understanding how the new measures impact voting rights is only half the battle. Check your secretary of state website or county election board for more information about registering to vote, early voting and mail-in ballot options.

Make sure you share this information with five friends or family members and ask them to do the same!


Written by NewsOne’s editorial team.



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