States govern American elections. Officials there certify election results. They decide when and how people can vote. They influence who can cast a ballot. Since Republicans in 2010 began their march toward control of the legislature and governor’s office in 26 states, voting rights advocates and Democrats say the state-by-state election system has led voter suppression efforts to run rampant. Since 2010, 23 states have passed laws that make it more difficult to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
To bypass state officials and respond to voter suppression bills, some local elected officials and activists are advancing laws in cities and counties nationwide that would increase voter registration. These local reforms can be stunningly simple — just registering people to vote in high schools and city government offices could add millions of voters if taken up by large cities across the country, voting rights advocates say.
“It’s not their burden, it’s their opportunity,” Phil Keisling, a former Oregon secretary of state who runs the Center for Public Service at Portland State University, told Mic of localities expanding voting rights. “Even if we can’t change state policies, particularly in these red states … there’s still many things you can do at the local level.”