Challenges to Voting Rights in 2021
Challenges to Voting Rights
The right to vote—and the ability to exercise that right—are foundational in our democracy. In a society based on the rule of law, the issues that impact Citizens Project’s core values—equity, inclusion, and justice—are often defined through the ballot box, where we elect those who make the laws, whether at the national, state, or local level.
Today, we are witnessing across the U.S. one of the most dramatic debates about voting rights and access in modern history. At Citizens Project, we are committed to encouraging voters to be educated about issues and candidates and exercising their right to vote. We are also committed to calling out those efforts that tend to make it more difficult for eligible voters—regardless of background or political belief—to exercise that right.
At the national level, the For the People Act of 2021 (H.R. 1, www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1/text)—has passed the U.S. House of Representatives but has not been taken up in the Senate. Barring a comprehensive national voting rights act, however, who votes, when they can vote, and how they vote are all decided at the state level.
As of March 24, according to the Brennan Center (www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-march-2021), 361 bills with restrictive provisions have been introduced in the legislatures in 47 states, a 43 percent increase since February 19, when the Brennan Center first published its tally:
- 5 bills have already become law, including Georgia’s (in)famous omnibus bill;
- 55 restrictive bills in 24 states are moving through state legislatures;
- 29 bills have passed at least one legislative chamber;
- States with the most number of restrictive bills: Texas (49), Georgia (25), and Arizona (23).
On the other side, the Brennan Center reports that, as of March 24, 843 bills with expansive provisions have been introduced in 47 states, a 20 percent increase since February 19:
- 9 bills have become law, and another 9 have passed both chambers and await signature;
- 103 bills in 31 states are moving through state legislatures;
- 41 bills have passed at least one legislative chamber.
In Colorado, four bills were introduced in the 2021 legislative session that would have impeded voting in one way or another. Two were sponsored by local Representatives. All have been “postponed indefinitely” in committee, which means they are dead, at least for this year:
- Voter Proof of Citizenship Requirement (http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb21-1086) would have required an individual to provide proof of citizenship before receiving a regular mail ballot. Sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Luck (R; Dist 47 [includes Pueblo]).
- Annual Audit Statewide Voter Registration System (http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb21-1088) would have required an annual audit of the entire electoral rolls over a five-year period. Sponsored by Rep. Andres Pico (R; Dist 16 [El Paso County/Colorado Springs]).
- Improve Public Confidence Election Validity (https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb21-007) would have required in-person voting except when mail ballots are expressly requested. Sponsored by Sen. Paul Lundeen (R; Dist 9 [El Paso County/Monument]).
- Colorado Ballot Signature Verification Act (https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb21-010) would have negated ballots from an eligible elector who is unable to sign the ballot unless the affirming witness is also registered in the same county. Sponsored by Sen. Rob Woodward (R; Dist 15 [Larimer County]).
Citizens Project has typically opposed bills that would impose unnecessary burdens that make it more difficult for eligible voters to vote. Colorado’s voting system has been hailed by Democrats and Republicans alike as a model for the nation. Colorado law already stipulates that only citizens may vote, and fraudulent voting by ineligible persons is not a material issue. Added restrictions on registration and voting simply discourage eligible voter participation.
The one Colorado bill that would expand voter access is a bill providing for Multilingual Ballot Access for Voters (http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb21-1011), which would expand multilingual ballot access and establish a multilingual ballot hotline. Citizens Project supports this bill because it promotes and facilitates voting by eligible voters. On March 29th, the bill passed the House, 40-23-2. El Paso County Reps voted along party lines: all 6 Republicans (Bradford, Carver, Geitner, Pico, Sandridge, and Williams) voted ‘no’; both Democrats (Exum and Snyder) voted ‘yes.’ The bill is currently in Committee in the Senate.
Whether on voting rights or other issues, Citizens Project will continue to advocate for our core values of equity, inclusion, and justice. In this Colorado legislative session, Citizens Project has taken positions on 29 bills, on elections, separation of church and state, LGBTQIA+ issues, immigration, economic justice, policing, education, equal access, and health equity (see www.citizensproject.org/2021-legislation/).
To contact your CO District or Senate representatives, see https://leg.colorado.gov/legislators.