Limiting Mail-in Voting Won’t Make Elections More Secure
The contentious 2020 presidential election is finally behind us, but debates about it will continue in state legislatures for a while as Republican lawmakers look to roll back expanded mail-in voting rules implemented before and during the pandemic.
Already, at least 165 bills have been introduced in 33 state legislatures to restrict voting access, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a think tank housed at New York University Law School that advocates for democratic principles. About half of those would target mail-in voting, a widespread and established practice in America that nonetheless became a lightning rod for controversy during the past year as former President Donald Trump politicized it.
It’s too soon to know whether there is adequate support for restricting mail-in voting in various states, but the bills already introduced will give lawmakers a wide range of options. One of the most common proposals, according to the Brennan Center’s legislation tracker, would eliminate so-called “no-excuse voting,” which allows anyone in the state to request an absentee ballot without having to provide a reason why they can’t go to the polls. Other bills would restrict what excuses can be used to qualify for absentee ballots—removing concerns about getting sick from the list, for example—or would limit state officials’ ability to send out absentee ballots without first getting a request for one.
If you want to understand how quickly attitudes toward mail-in voting have shifted, look no further than Pennsylvania. The state legislature passed a bipartisan bill in 2019 to expand mail-in voting, including a provision allowing no-excuse absentee balloting for the first time in the state’s history. But after Trump and his supporters blamed mail-in voting for President Joe Biden’s victory in the state—a claim easily disproved with some simple math—
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