Voting matters. 2020 was proof.
Yes, Joe Biden won the popular vote by more than seven million votes and enjoyed a relatively comfortable 306 to 232 victory in the Electoral College. But those margins obscure just how few votes determined the winner.
Biden won three critical states by a combined margin of 43,560 votes — Arizona (10,457 votes), Georgia (12,636 votes), Wisconsin (20,467 votes). Those three states account for 37 electoral votes. If Trump had won those states, the election would have ended in a tie, 269 to 269. (The House would then determine the winner, with each state delegation getting one vote. Republicans hold a narrow majority of state delegations. So Trump would likely have won a second term.)
Trump and his allies attempted to overturn the results of the election through baseless allegations of fraud, lawsuits, and a last-ditch attempt to throw out the results of the Electoral College. Those efforts failed. But now, Republicans are looking to gain a decisive edge in future elections by making it more difficult to vote.
A new report by the Brennan Center for Justice, released on Monday, reveals that legislators in 33 states have introduced 165 bills to restrict voting rights. This is not typical. At this time last year, just 35 bills to restrict voting had been introduced. Many of this year's bills are rooted in the same lies Trump used to claim the election was stolen — and sponsored by the state officials who backed Trump's efforts to reverse the results of the election.
The war on mail-in voting
As more Americans avoided crowded public spaces during a pandemic, mail-in voting "constituted nearly half the votes cast in the 2020 election," a significant increase from previous years. But the process was "a remarkable success," which was "less prone to errors than expected and had almost no documented fraud."
But "14 bills in nine states would make the 'excuse' requirement more stringent for absentee voting or eliminate 'no excuse' mail voting." In Pennsylvania, for example, HB25 would repeal no-excuse absentee voting, which was passed with bipartisan support in 2019. The sponsor of the legislation, Representative Michael Puskaric (R), said he introduced the bill because of "mass confusion and mail-in ballot irregularities" and concern "about election fraud through this mail-in ballot system." One of the bill's co-sponsors, Representative Jim Gregory (R), signed a letter to Pennsylvania's Congressional delegation, urging them "to object, and vote to sustain such objection, to the Electoral College votes received from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania during the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021."
Legislation introduced in multiple states seeks to reduce mail-in ballots by eliminating "permanent absentee voting lists." This would force people to request a mail-in ballot for each election. In Arizona, Senator Wendy Rogers (R) is sponsoring a bill (SB 1678) to eliminate the permanent absentee voting list. Rogers "signed a letter urging Congress to accept the party’s slate of electors supporting Trump’s re-election instead of the Democratic slate chosen by voters."
Other bills would prohibit sending absentee ballots to voters without a specific request. This is a step several states took to encourage mail-in ballots and avoid crowding at polls. An Arizona bill, HB 2792, "would make it a felony to affirmatively send an absentee ballot to anyone not on the permanent early voter list." That bill is sponsored by Representative Jake Hoffman (R), who also signed the letter urging members of Congress to recognize an alternative slate of electors pledged to Trump.
The war on in-person voting
There are also efforts across multiple states to make it more difficult for people to vote in person. The Brennan Center reports that "in ten states that do not require voters to present photo ID at the polls to cast a regular ballot, legislators have introduced bills to impose an ID requirement." About "11% of U.S. citizens – or more than 21 million Americans – do not have government-issued photo identification." Those without an ID are disproportionately people of color. Nationwide, "up to 25% of African-American citizens of voting age lack government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8% of whites." Imposing voter ID requirements generally reduces turnout by 2-3%.
Other states with existing voter ID laws are considering bills to restrict certain types of identification. In New Hampshire, legislation "would prevent the use of student IDs" — a clear effort to make it more difficult for young people to vote. The bill was introduced by Representative Al Balsadaro (R), who appeared at a "Stop the Steal" rally and called Biden's presidency "illegal." He also told the crowd that Hillary Clinton should be executed by firing squad.
The war on voter registration
Biden's victory in Georgia was powered by grassroots groups turning out first-time voters. Georgia's population of registered voters is growing "through automatic registration at the Department of Driver Services." Prior to the 2020 general election, Georgia's secretary of state said that roughly two-thirds of Georgia's 7.5 million registered voters were registered automatically through this program.
A bill introduced in the Georgia legislature would undermine the automatic registration program. Instead of registering voters by default when applying for a driver's license, the bill would require Georgians to affirmatively indicate a desire to register to vote. The bill is sponsored by Senator Jeff Mullis. In December, Mullis signed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to throw out the results in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
The Brennan Center reports that ten bills "have been introduced to cut back on opportunities for election day registration, with legislators in five states introducing bills to eliminate election day registration entirely." A member of the Arizona legislature introduced a bill prohibiting automatic voter registration — something that is not even available in the state.
The attack on Democracy continues in the states
Dozens of corporations have suspended donations to the 147 members of Congress who voted to overturn the election. Those Republicans were seeking to undermine democracy by objecting to the Electoral College vote. But, as the flood of bills to restrict voting illustrates, Trump's efforts to undermine the democratic process live on.
The state legislators behind these anti-democratic efforts typically signed onto letters or legal briefs seeking to set aside millions of votes and install Trump for a second term. But few corporations have committed to suspending their donations to these state-level officials.
For example, at least 79 members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate sought to use their elected position to advance baseless claims of voter fraud and overturn the results. Popular Information contacted 51 corporations that had donated to members of this group in 2020.
Just a handful of corporations have committed to cut off funds to this group. The most tangible commitment has come from Microsoft, which announced last week that it would "suspend contributions for the duration of the 2022 election cycle to all members of Congress who voted to object to the certification of electors" and "also suspend contributions for the same period for state officials and organizations who supported such objections or suggested the election should be overturned."
Popular Information has a plan to comprehensively monitor the future political giving of Microsoft and every other company that has spoken out after the January 6 riot at the Capitol. But Popular Information is a two-person newsletter, and this is a massive undertaking. It will involve tens of thousands of campaign finance records from dozens of federal and state databases.
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