By Fred Lucas for The Daily Signal
Texas Governor Greg Abbott ended a year of major electoral reform across America this week by signing hotly debated bills after a long drama in which Democratic lawmakers flee the state to prevent it from being passed.
Texas, with its Republican governor, is among at least 18 states to enact electoral reform measures this year, including bills requiring voter IDs, curbing the controversial practice of ballot harvesting, and removing the dead and other ineligible voters from registration lists.
Organizations that have tallied the election changes include the National Conference of State Legislatures, a non-partisan group that represents state lawmakers, and the Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal group that opposes voter identification and voter registration laws pronounces.
"In many states, lawmakers have finally realized that these gaps and weaknesses that have been in the system for some time need to be addressed," Hans von Spakovsky, a former member of the federal election commission, told Daily Signal.
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"States like Texas, Georgia, Florida and other places have actually made some good reforms to fix the problem," said von Spakovsky.
As manager of the electoral reform initiative at the Heritage Foundation, the parent organization of The Daily Signal, von Spakovsky noted that many of the state election reforms prevailed despite misleading political attacks.
"[The legislature did it in the face of totally unfair and outrageous criticism of them, basically telling all sorts of lies about what they were doing," said von Spakovsky, also a member of President Donald Trump's Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity .
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The Brennan Center, affiliated with the New York University School of Law, called the new state laws "restrictive" measures that would "suppress" the right to vote.
The group announced a lawsuit against the state of Texas, claiming that the goal of legislation known as SB 1 was “not to prevent election fraud; it's about staying in power in the face of a changing and growing electorate. "
The 18 revised state electoral bills could be the most successful bills since 14 states passed electoral measures 10 years ago, the Brennan Center said, noting, "The United States is well on its way to its most recent period of significant voter suppression – 2011 to be surpassed. "
Most new laws, however, allow earlier voting and are less restrictive than electoral laws in New York, where the Brennan Center is based, von Spakovsky said.
Kansas and Kentucky are the only states with Democratic governors that have passed major electoral reforms, despite a modest new law passed in Nevada. Kansas law came after the veto was lifted.
In most of the states that have acted, a clear partisan divide has opened on electoral reforms, with Republicans supporting it and Democrats against.
"I think it's a hopeful sign because I think it may finally show that many of the opponents in the political ranks are realizing that the lies they are telling about voter identification are not working," von Spakovsky said of states with Democratic governors.
"With the American people's overwhelming support for [voter] ID, they should finally get on board and stick to what the American people think is a good idea," he said.
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Here is an overview of the state election reforms passed so far this year:
A new law in Alabama bans roadside voting and requires postal voting requests to be received at least 10 days before polling day.
A new Arkansas law requires voters who cast preliminary ballots to produce identification by noon on the Monday following election day. So far, these voters only had to sign an affidavit.
A separate law sets stricter limits on ballot voting, the practice in which political activists distribute and collect large quantities of postal ballot papers. It also prohibits election officials from distributing unsolicited applications for postal ballot papers.
A new Arizona law requires the Secretary of State to check death records against a statewide voter registration database. Another law increases the security of voting machines.
Grand Canyon State also joined a trend among states by banning private money to pay for election administration. The move was largely in response to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg donating $ 350 million to polling stations in the United States last year.
Another new law in Arizona stipulates that the names of inactive voters will be removed from an early voting list if they have not voted in two consecutive election cycles. And a fourth law requires voters to sign the envelope in which they hand in a postal ballot.
A new Florida law restricts ballot collection by allowing someone to collect postal ballots from immediate family members, but no more than two ballots from others.
In addition to prohibiting private funding of the electoral administration, the law requires voters to request a postal vote in order to receive one. It also increases security for the ballot boxes that debuted in the 2020 elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A law in Georgia, one of the most controversial protests, requires a voter ID card in order to cast a postal vote. Opponents falsely claimed that the restriction was "Jim Crow 2.0".
The law sets guidelines for ballot boxes, aims to shorten the queues at polling stations, and gives a state electoral board more control over the county's electoral administration.
The measure also prohibits political activists from offering food, mineral water or other valuables within 50 meters of the polling stations. Only New York and Montana have similar regulations regarding the provision of food and water on polling lines.
Idaho is among the states that responded to Zuckerberg's heavy spending on election administration by the left-wing Center for Tech and Civic Life, which distributed the money.
The Idaho Legislature passed and Governor Brad Little, a Republican, signed SB 1168, which requires that all state elections be funded only through funding from federal, state, or local authorities.
Indiana SB 398 prohibits local electoral courts from accepting or spending funds from private donors to conduct elections. In response to Zuckerberg's donations, the new law states that only federal, state, and local government funds may be used to run elections.
"A number of states have banned the private funding of election officials and election offices, which I believe was something that happened in the last election [and] was unprecedented – 'sugar bucks' – [and] created enormous conflicts of interest and ethical problems for election officials" said von Spakovsky.
"They have now banned what is good," he added. "No private party, no political candidate should be able to give local election offices money to influence and manipulate the outcome of the election."
A new law in Iowa, a battlefield state in the recent presidential election, requires postal ballot papers to arrive at polling stations by the end of election day to be counted.
The move also allows fewer days for early voting, reducing the total from 29 to 20.
A new law in Kansas restricts ballot collection by limiting the number of ballots a person can return to a polling station to 10.
The Republican-controlled legislature voted in May to lift a Democrat Laura Kelly's veto on the measure.
Kentucky’s new law increases the security of postal ballot papers and requires a paper trail for voting machines. It is also setting up an online portal for absentee voting and is extending the previous 19-day deadline by three days for early personal voting.
Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, signed HB 574, which was passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
Louisiana's new law, known as HB 167, establishes a procedure for election officials to remove dead voters from registration lists within 30 days of receiving a death certificate.
A new law in Montana requires voters to present either a state driver's license, tribal photo ID, state ID card number, or military ID to vote.
Other new laws in Montana include voter registration at noon the day before an election, restrict paid ballot collectors, and allow local election officials to reduce the number of hours at polling stations with fewer than 400 registered voters who cast their ballots in person while other elections are vacant Open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
A measure signed by Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, increases the maximum size of a constituency from 3,000 to 5,000 registered voters.
A new law in New Hampshire, the only state in New England to pass electoral reform this year, requires the Secretary of State to provide information on death register matches with voter checklists.
Another law stipulates that people who register to vote on election day with an affidavit or affidavit must also have a photo taken beforehand. The Brennan Center claims the move is among those "restricting access to voting".
A new law in Oklahoma sets a 30-day deadline for a district electoral committee to remove dead voters from its registration list. Another law extends both early personal voting and requires that requests for postal votes be received by 5:00 p.m. at the latest. on the third Monday before an election.
A third Oklahoma law allows the State Election Board to participate in multi-state organizations that maintain voter lists, such as the nonprofit Electronic Registration Information Center.
The new Texas law extends early polling times, prohibits poll workers from submitting a request for absentee ballots unless a voter requests it, and bans drive-through voting. The measure also requires a voter ID card for postal ballot papers and security precautions for election observers.
The law also requires the Texas Foreign Secretary to use the details of a driver's license to "verify the accuracy of the citizenship status information previously provided in voter registration applications."
Utah's new law, known as HB 12, requires the names of dead voters to be removed from the lists and mandates the state's lieutenant governor to enforce it.
The Brennan Center described the law and others removing the dead from the electoral roll as a "purge."
A new law in Wyoming requires voters to show their ID in order to vote in person. Acceptable forms of identification include a driver's license, state or tribal ID, passport, military ID, or a Wyoming public school, university, or community college.
Syndicated with permission from The Daily Signal.
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