Amid President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud in the 2016 election, bills have been introduced in at least 20 states that would make it more difficult for many people to vote. In some states, such as Texas and Arkansas, lawmakers are responding to court rulings that struck down or scaled back earlier attempts to restrict voting. Bills in other states would make changes to early voting and registration deadlines. Proponents of the legislation say the proposed limitations, such as requiring a photo ID and eliminating Election Day registration, are necessary to restore public confidence in the electoral system. They say the measures protect the integrity of the ballot box by confirming voters’ identities and whether they are qualified to vote. In state legislatures the measures are backed mainly by Republicans, though polls show that most Democrats also support a photo ID requirement.
“Confidence has been eroded. Even if it’s just anecdotal evidence, people are questioning whether the ballot is secure,” said Arkansas state Rep. Mark Lowery, a Republican who is sponsoring a photo ID law there. “When there’s a lack of confidence in the election, it undermines confidence in democracy itself.”
But critics point to a lack of evidence of voter fraud, and say the restrictions are unnecessary and unfairly discriminate against minorities and poor people, who may not have a birth certificate, passport or driver’s license.
“Many of these laws are nothing new,” said Danielle Lang with the Campaign Legal Center, which has sued over many restrictive state voting laws. “But there’s a different message coming from this administration, and it’s one that will embolden states.”