States adjust voting procedures before 2024 election
Legislatures are debating voter ID, timing, and registration rules
The next presidential election is still 20 months away, but states are already under pressure to make voting more secure and accessible, all while responding to rapid changes in technology. Voters across the country could see changes to voter ID requirements, registration rules, and early voting before the next election cycle.
“If you are requiring a photo ID when someone votes, whether it’s on election day or early, well that’s gonna help prevent fraud from occurring,” said Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative. “If you don’t require an ID to vote, like California, or New York, or the District of Columbia, then early voting just gives more opportunity for election fraud.”
Eighteen states currently require voters to show photo identification at the polls, whether a passport, driver’s license, state ID or military ID. The National Conference of State Legislatures lists eight states with “strict photo ID” requirements. That means voters without acceptable identification must vote on a provisional ballot and take additional steps after Election Day. Each of those states provides a state photo ID for free.
Proponents say voter ID requirements have the added benefit of restoring trust in the election process.
“Voter fraud is a significant enough issue that we should try to prevent it,” said Regent University politics professor Andrew Nolte. “Especially if it’s not imposing an undue burden.”
The Virginia legislature is considering 11 bills related to voter ID. The state currently accepts various forms of ID to vote, including a utility bill, bank statement, government check, and other paychecks or government documents containing the voter’s name and address. If House Bill 1444 passes, only a valid photo will be allowed at the ballot box.
Opponents say a photo ID requirement burdens voters. The Brennan Center, a law and policy research group based in Washington, D.C., has argued that ethnic minorities often have a harder time obtaining photo ID. That’s an idea that has won support in court. Last December, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that 2018 legislation requiring voters to present photo ID at the polls violated the state constitution’s equal protection clause because it was specifically intended to suppress the votes of ethnic minorities.
Georgia has the second-highest percentage of eligible black voters, according to the Pew Research Center. After implementing photo ID laws in 2018, more than 2.5 million people voted early in the state 2022. The midterm election featured the highest voter turnout Georgia had ever seen, alongside record-breaking early voting turnout.
Other state legislatures are working to prevent the wrong people from voting. One Virginia bill stuck in committee would build on current voter roll law and require election officials to remove any deceased persons within seven days of receiving notification of their deaths. The Social Security Administration and other state vital records agencies share lists of deceased individuals with election officials. Oftentimes, funeral directors of the deceased will report individuals’ deaths to the Social Security Administration, but friends and family members can also report them. Last year, Virginia passed a law requiring the state registrar of vital records to send the Department of Elections a weekly list of people ages 17 and older who died in the state.
After the 2020 election, former President Donald Trump claimed thousands of votes bearing the names of deceased citizens had been cast for his opponent. A Public Interest Legal Foundation report found that 7,890 deceased registrants across 41 states were credited with voting in 2016, with another 6,718 credited for voting in 2018. The foundation has not yet conducted a similar report for 2020.
Trump’s supporters echoed his claim after the 2020 election, inundating election officials with requests for closer examination of voter records, including voter registration lists.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a left-leaning coalition in Washington, argues that America’s current voter registration laws are confusing and burdensome, and that registration barriers disproportionately affect black and low-income Americans. They write that the Freedom to Vote Act, which the U.S. Senate is currently considering, would create a fair system of voter registration. The bill states that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that all eligible citizens are registered to vote in federal elections. It would also require all states to allow convicted criminals to vote once they complete their sentences and make it a criminal offense to hinder or help someone to register to vote corruptly.
The conference also claims that states often provide poor registration services to eligible voters, for example, offering registration in person but not online. The group lists polling place closures, inflexible voting hours, and restrictions on third-party voter registration as hindering the freedom to vote.
Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative, disagrees.
“There are no registration barriers,” he said. “It is easier to vote in this country than ever before. You can vote when you get your driver’s license, you can download a form off the internet, fill it out, it’s one page, mail it in.”
The Freedom to Vote Act would mandate at least 15 days of early voting in all states. Last summer, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, signed a law expanding early voting. Missouri’s law allows early in-person voting for up to two weeks before an election. It also requires all voters to show a photo ID.
Douglas Jones is a University of Iowa computer science professor who has researched voting technology. He says the longer the voting process is extended, the harder it is to ensure elections are run with integrity because wider margins give voters more time and opportunity to cheat.
Because early voting doesn’t allow voters to change their minds, candidate quality could also suffer, Jones argues. He said one of the worst features of early voting is that it leads candidates to cater to a limited number of potential voters.
“Suppose you talk me into voting early,” he told WORLD. “The candidate can now do the stupidest things on earth and not lose my vote.”
Amid countless changes in voting legislation, more and more Americans are filling out ballots. Often-contentious discussions about voting procedures reflect the nature of political division itself. Jones quoted an election official he once met who said, “Running an election is like running a war.”
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