The chair of the Texas Republican Party has called on the legislature there to make “election integrity” the top legislative priority in 2021, calling, among other things, for a reduction in the number of days of early voting. Jason Miller, a top Trump adviser, told the conservative site Just The News that Trump plans to remain involved in “voting integrity” efforts, keeping the issue at the top of Republicans’ minds. And VoteRiders, a nonprofit group that helps prospective voters get an ID if they need one to cast a ballot, said it is expecting a serious push for new voter ID laws in at least five states, while North Carolina could potentially implement new voter ID policies that have been held up in court.
Voter ID laws are usually very popular among the general public — a 2018 Pew Research poll found that three-quarters of Americans surveyed supported laws requiring voters to present a photo ID — but activists say they are problematic for several disparate groups of voters.
“They are students and other young people, they’re communities of color, they’re older adults who are no longer driving, people with low income, people with disabilities,” said Kathleen Unger, the founder of VoteRiders. VoteRiders estimated that up to 25 million voting-age Americans lacked a government-issued photo ID.
Georgia Republicans, in particular, are intensely focused on their state’s election laws, after the state became the epicenter of Trump’s attempts to undermine confidence in the 2020 election results. Georgia Republicans have proposed a bevy of changes, from imposing limits on who can vote by mail to limiting the use of dropboxes, which allow people to return absentee ballots without using the postal system.
The Republican state Senate caucus has endorsed ending no-excuse absentee voting in Georgia, which was disproportionately used by Democratic voters in the 2020 elections. (More than one-third of Biden’s votes in Georgia were cast by mail, versus just 18 percent of Trump’s votes.) Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who has rejected Trump’s fraud claims, also said he supported scrapping no-excuse mail voting because the system was too taxing on local election administrators.
However, the state’s GOP legislative leaders have yet to agree on exactly what to change. Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who is the president of the state Senate, told 11Alive News that he wouldn’t support ending no-excuse absentee voting, and state House Speaker David Ralston also sounded skeptical of ending the practice. Republicans are more universally aligned behind requiring absentee voters to submit a copy of an ID either when they request or return a ballot, which would replace the state’s signature verification system. Georgia already requires voters to show a photo ID when voting in person.
“I think that has the most likelihood of being signed into law,” said state Sen. Larry Walker, the vice chair of the Republican Senate caucus. Walker said he would be “very supportive” of that change and said his constituents were deeply concerned, saying he has gotten thousands of emails, letters and texts.
“A large percentage of my constituents have lost faith in the integrity of our election system,” he said. “So we’re going to try to address some things that we feel like can restore the public’s confidence in the system.”
He also rejected that claim that changes would disenfranchise voters, citing the state’s high turnout. “I don’t think any of these ideas are burdensome or overly restrictive or lead to what I would consider voter suppression,” he said.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a nonpartisan organization, 36 states have some form of voter ID law in place. The NCSL classifies Georgia as a “strict photo ID” state, meaning voters without approved ID must vote on a provisional ballot and take steps after the election to get their ballot counted.
But Georgia is unique among the closest 2020 battleground states in that Republicans control the governorship and both houses of the state legislature. That boxes out Democrats, who are broadly opposed to voter ID laws or other proposed electoral changes, like limiting absentee voting. Democratic governors in states with Republican legislatures, like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, could veto changes to election laws if there isn’t bipartisan agreement on what to alter.
“Looking at the disposition of the governments in them, I’m not sure that really a lot of them are going to be able to go the distance the way that Georgia will,” said Jason Snead, the executive director of the Honest Elections Project, a conservative group. “But I think that there is certainly a lot of interest in Pennsylvania, in Michigan, in Wisconsin.”
In Pennsylvania, Republicans lawmakers have signaled their intent to introduce voter ID laws and try to repeal the state’s bipartisan law allowing no-excuse mail voting, though Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf stands in their way. The issue could percolate through the 2022 midterm elections, when Republicans will try to retake the governorship.
“It isn’t a secret that further election law changes must be made,” Pennsylvania state Rep. Seth Grove, a Republican who chairs the House State Government Committee, said at a hearing on the state’s election laws on Thursday afternoon, noting that both Democrats and Republicans have proposed changes to Pennsylvania election laws. Thursday’s hearing was the first of a planned 14 total hearings on election laws.
In Arizona, another swing state that Biden narrowly carried, Republicans in the state Senate have advanced legislation that would result in more automatic recounts. Some Republicans also introduced legislation to abolish the state’s permanent early voting list — which a supermajority of voters are registered for — although a cosponsor of the legislation told the Arizona Republic, “It can’t pass and I don’t want to waste my time with it.”
And in North Carolina, the state’s delayed voter ID policy could go into effect before the 2022 midterm election. In 2018, voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring voter ID, but it was blocked by a federal judge from taking effect for the 2020 cycle. A federal appeals judge overturned a order effectively blocking its implementation, but there is an ongoing legal battle in both state and federal courts over the law.
“Election integrity, election security, these issues aren’t going anywhere,” Snead said. “And I firmly believe that if a legislature in a particular state does not pass a reform this cycle, it does not mean it’ll never pass a reform, right?”