As democracy reform gains increased attention from policymakers at the state and federal level, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law provides an overview of new and pending legislation around voting rights, security, and access for 2019. Read the introduction below, and click through to learn more about legislative efforts to expand — or restrict — voter access in your state. Among restrictive states, Texas is spotlighted for its recent flawed effort to purge alleged non-citizens from voter rolls.
As we move into the third month of the legislative session, state lawmakers continue to introduce bills expanding voting access at a blistering pace, mirroring strong momentum for democracy reform that we see at the federal level with H.R.1. Lawmakers in 41 states have introduced 589 expansive bills thus far this year. By comparison, lawmakers had introduced 531 expansive bills when we counted in May of 2017 and 464 bills when we counted in June of 2015. Thus far this year, only 63 restrictive bills have been introduced in 21 states.
The key question now is whether this pro-voter enthusiasm will actually be converted into law. Notably, New York has already enacted a package of expansive bills, and it is considering adding automatic registration. And the U.S. House passed H.R.1 last week. We are cautiously optimistic there will be more: seventeen states have already successfully moved 34 expansive bills through one or more houses of their legislature.
With respect to restrictive bills, only three states have passed four of these bills through at least one house. But we must remain vigilant. None of the significant restrictions enacted last year were passed before the end of June – there is still plenty of time for restrictive laws to pass this session. Moreover, the most significant voter suppression thus far this year has happened outside of state legislatures. In January, the Texas Secretary of State initiated a ham-handed attempt to purge alleged non-citizens from the voter rolls. The list of supposed non-citizens he provided, however, proved deeply inaccurate, and a federal court has since halted any purges based on the list.
In addition to the expansive or restrictive voting bills we’ve canvassed, 26 states have introduced 85 bills related to election security. Many of these bills focus on requiring the use of voting machines that produce a paper record or authorizing or requiring post-election audits.
The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is a nonpartisan law and policy institute that works to reform, revitalize – and when necessary, defend – our country’s systems of democracy and justice. To learn more, visit www.brennancenter.org.