Republicans several years ago seized the upper hand in the so-called “voting wars” by pushing voter ID and other measures that created new voting restrictions. But now Democrats across the country are fighting back. This week, Colorado lawmakers sent Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, a bill that allows voters in that state to register at the polls on Election Day; creates an all-mail ballot system; and ensures that voters who move within Colorado don’t have to re-register at their new address. The Colorado law is especially broad, but it is only the latest in a series of victories for those who want to streamline registration and reduce long lines at the polls. The governor is expected to sign the measure, which has overwhelming support among Democrats. During the last legislative session, Maryland expanded early voting, eased absentee voting and approved same-day registration during early voting periods. West Virginia implemented a new system to register residents using state records already on file. Delaware removed the waiting period for nonviolent felons to regain their voting rights, and made re-establishing them automatic. And this week, the Minnesota House approved a measure making absentee balloting easier.
“The Colorado bill is part of that larger movement of undoing or easing some of the restrictions that were put in place in a few years ago,” said Barry Burden, an elections expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “It’s part of a swing back in the pendulum in the last year and a half to two years.”
Nearly 200 such bills were introduced in 45 states this year, according to a recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice. Most were never enacted, but voting activists managed to score a number of significant victories nonetheless, especially in states where Democrats are in control.
The effort in Colorado is among the most far-reaching. It also stands out for another reason: The law passed without a single GOP vote. Colorado Republicans have labeled it an open invitation to widespread voter fraud and a partisan reshaping of elections rules.