Republican-backed legislation to tighten voting laws in several swing state is hitting stiff opposition from Democrats, who call the effort an attempt at voter suppression.
The Republican National Committee and GOP state lawmakers are focusing on “election integrity” following a massive expansion of mail-in ballots, irregularities and allegations of fraud in the 2020 elections, including unsubstantiated allegations from former President Donald Trump that the presidential election was stolen.
The bills working their way through a dozen states with Republican-led legislatures vary. Many would require photo identification to vote and increase election officials’ supervision over mail-in voting, including limiting the number of drop boxes for ballots and requiring them to be monitored by officials.
The RNC last month said it was forming a new Committee on Election Integrity to support states’ voter ID laws and to ensure that poll watchers are allowed to observe vote counts.
“Our core principle is making it as easy as possible to vote, but as hard as possible to cheat,” said Florida Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters, who is leading an RNC campaign to promote overhauls of state election laws.
“Everybody should want fair elections and make sure every legal citizen has the ability to vote and every vote counts,” he told The Washington Times.
Democrats call the measures “racist” and say they are designed to throw up barriers to Black voters.
“It is a redux of Jim Crow, in a suit and tie,” Stacey Abrams, a prominent Democratic political figure who runs a national voting-rights organization, said recently on CNN.
Republicans in Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida have offered state legislation that they say is needed to rebuilding voter confidence.
In Wisconsin, absentee ballot requests must include a photo ID and voters must fill out a uniform absentee ballot request form. State senators want to end the automatic mailing of absentee ballots.
Getting the laws enacted will be tougher in states with Democratic governors such as Nevada, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
The bills have the best chance of becoming law in Arizona and Georgia, where Republicans control the legislatures and the governor’s mansions.
The five states all voted Republican in 2016 and then flipped to elect President Biden in 2020, putting them on the front line of scores of unsuccessful pro-Trump lawsuits challenging the election results.
In Arizona, a Republican lawmaker introduced a measure to allow the legislature to overturn the secretary of state’s certification of results before Inauguration Day.
Republicans in the state also are aiming to do away with Election Day registration and ban private funding for elections from big tech groups such as the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which is funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and gave grants to about 2,500 localities to help run their elections.
In Georgia, House Republicans moved to require photo IDs for absentee voting, restrict drop boxes, and limit early voting hours on weekends. The state Senate, meanwhile, passed legislation that would limit mail-in voting to voters who are older adults, have a disability or not in town on Election Day.
Liberal advocates said the photo ID requirement discriminates against disabled voters who are less likely to have a driver’s license.
Caleb Jackson, a lawyer for the liberal Campaign Legal Center, said limiting weekend voting, specifically on Sunday, violates the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against Black voters who often go to vote after church.
“I imagine that if it passes in Georgia, you will see challenges to that,” he said.
Many of these laws would be voided if congressional Democrats succeed in forcing their election overhaul bill through the Senate to President Biden’s desk.
House Democrats this month passed the nearly 800-page bill known as H.R. 1 or the For the People Act, which would set national standards for elections. It would require states to have Election Day voter registration and early voting for 15 days. It also would limit money in politics, end partisan gerrymandering and establish new ethics rules.