In the years after Republicans swept state and congressional elections in 2010, legislatures in 25 states — all but a handful of them dominated by the party — enacted laws that made it harder to register and vote, from imposing ID requirements and curbing voter registration drives to rolling back early voting periods. In November, Democrats reclaimed some of the ground they lost eight years ago. And now the rules for casting a ballot are moving fast in the opposite direction. The signal example is in New York, where Democrats this month enacted a series of measures expanding access to the ballot box, just two months after taking full control of both the State House and Senate. But that state is far from the only one: Legislatures in New Jersey and Virginia are set to consider even more expansive packages. Delaware, New Hampshire, Minnesota and New Mexico are also set to take up voting rights measures. All those proposals, in legislatures under Democratic control or on the cusp of it, have plausible prospects of becoming law. But Democrats are pushing legislation to expand access to the ballot even in some states like South Carolina and Texas where Republicans control makes approval unlikely.
And in the House of Representatives, they are pressing a sweeping overhaul of election and ethics laws — titled H.R. 1 to underscore its importance — that would, among many other things, end partisan gerrymanders, disclose anonymous donors to political causes and reinstate crucial parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court invalidated in 2013.
Republicans call the legislation an attack on states’ constitutional authority over elections and redistricting, and its campaign finance limits an assault on free speech. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, already has said the bill would be dead on arrival in the Senate should it clear the House, as appears all but guaranteed.
In an op-ed in The Washington Post last week, Mr. McConnell branded the legislation “the Democrat Politician Protection Act.” “From the First Amendment to your ballot box,” he wrote, “Democrats want to rewrite the rules to favor themselves and their friends.”
That does not faze Democrats, who are betting that Republicans are on the wrong side of an issue that has finally gained traction with the public. Even if they lose to Republicans in Congress, Democrats say, they will they win with voters.