If voting legislation in 2011 centered largely on hindering access to the ballot box, 2012 will hopefully be defined as the year that voting rights began fighting back.
Last year, a rash of anti-voting legislation popped up in states around the country, from Florida to Texas to Wisconsin. New laws banning anyone without photo IDs from voting (commonly known as “voter ID”) grabbed the headlines, in part because of their potential to disenfranchise over 3 million citizens in the 2012 election, but lesser-known legislation emerged as well. This included shortening early voting periods, permanently disenfranchising felons no longer in prison, trying to remove voters’ ability in some states to register on election day, and making it more difficult for outside groups like League of Women Voters to register citizens.
Reeling from 2011′s setbacks, lawmakers in a number of states are introducing legislation this year to recoup many of those voting rights that were taken away. Courtesy of Project Vote, here is a rundown of some of the state legislation being introduced that will improve, rather than hinder, access to the polls:
FLORIDA: In 2011, Florida passed one of the most onerous election reform bills of any state in the nation. The law reduces early voting from 14 days to eight and drove out third party registration groups like the League of Women Voters by requiring third party registration groups to turn in all registration forms within 48 hours of completion. A new bill, SB 1636, would increase the early voting period to 15 days and allow third party groups 10 days to turn in completed registration applications.
NEW YORK: A number of positive bills have been introduced in New York. AB 293/SB 1556 would establish early voting up to two weeks before an election. AB 1684 would allow citizens to register on Election Day. And AB 5915/SB 1009 would make it illegal to knowingly deceive voters about the time or place of an election.
VIRGINIA: A bill to restore voting rights for people who have been convicted of a felony and completed their sentence was recently prefiled.
WASHINGTON: HB 2204 would allow for citizens to register in person on election day, while setting the deadline for registering to vote online at eight days prior to the election.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) also introduced federal legislation last month to restore voting rights for felons who have completed their sentence.
Public advocates hope the tide of anti-voting legislation has been stemmed and this rash of new legislation will help restore many of those rights that were recently lost. ThinkProgress will continue to monitor their progress and report on the overall state of voting rights across the country.