Amid the recounts, recriminations and allegations of voter suppression or ballot fraud, something else happened in Tuesday’s elections — a wave of actions aimed at making voting easier and fairer that is an often-overlooked strain in the nation’s voting wars. Floridians extended voting rights to 1.4 million convicted felons. Maryland, Nevada and Michigan were among states that made it easier to register and vote. Michigan, along with Colorado and Missouri, limited politicians’ ability to directly draw, and gerrymander, district lines. Utah, where votes are still being tallied, appears poised to do the same. It was as if states around the country were pulled in two directions at once — with measures aimed at broadening voter participation coming on the heels of recent laws and regulations making it harder to register and vote. Still, for all the charges and countercharges on voter suppression, most of the momentum Tuesday was on measures quite likely to broaden voter participation and limit gerrymanders.
“It is clear when you put democracy reforms on the ballot, those measures win overwhelmingly,” Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, said. “From our perspective, we are going to be taking a hard look at where we can move more of these reforms in 2020 and beyond.”
There was plenty of news in the other direction, most notably the potential for prolonged legal fights over tight races in Florida, Georgia and Arizona. Many Americans cast ballots whose weight was diluted by precise, data-driven gerrymanders. North Carolina and Arkansas bucked this year’s voter-friendly tide by creating new identification requirements.