With voting rights opponents in positions of power blocking progressive changes, citizens in four states on Tuesday approved ballot initiatives and constitutional amendments that will make it easier to vote in future elections. Unfortunately, in three states, voters also adopted new suppression tactics, including two requirements for strict photo voter IDs.
Here’s a look at which states took a giant step forward and which didn’t.
Making it easier
Florida: Voters in this state adopted a constitutional amendment, offered by voting rights activists, to automatically restore voting rights to most ex-felons who have completed their sentences. With an estimated 1.4 million citizens’ right to vote at stake, a super majority of voters said yes to a Jim Crow-era rule that was originally put in place to limit the political power of freed slaves. By this vote, the Sunshine State granted the largest single restoration of civil rights since women’s suffrage.
Maryland: Voters overwhelmingly backed a constitutional amendment, referred by the Democratic-controlled state legislature without the support of Gov. Larry Hogan (R), to allow would-be voters to register on Election Day. A similar system already has been implemented in 17 states and the District of Columbia.
Michigan: Voters in this state strongly backed a constitutional amendment, pushed by voting rights activists, to enact a whole suite of progressive voting rights changes. The “Promote the vote” amendment contained provisions to ensure automatic and Election Day voter registration, no-reason absentee voting, and the option of straight-ticket voting.
Nevada: Voters here adopted a ballot initiative, pushed by voting rights activists, to automatically register anyone who gets a new or updated ID or driver’s license at the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles unless they specifically opt out. Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) vetoed a similar effort in 2017. Similar systems have been implemented in 14 other states and the District of Columbia.
Making it harder
Arkansas: Voters easily passed a constitutional amendment, referred by the Republican-controlled state legislature, to require all voters to present “valid photographic identification” in order to cast a ballot — even absentee. Though the state’s Supreme Court upheld a similar law last month, a constitutional amendment makes it that much harder for future legislatures to change the requirements.
Montana: Voters in this state appear to have endorsed a ballot question, referred by the Republican-controlled state legislature, to add new restrictions to who can transport an absentee ballot. The proposal, which has been enacted elsewhere, seeks to crack-down on the largely invented problem of “ballot harvesting” and to make it more difficult for those who cannot physically get to the polls to get their ballots counted. This is an issue that can especially impact Native American voters, who often use P.O. Boxes to send and receive mail, and rely on family and neighbors to pick up or drop off their mail if they live far from the post office; Montana has a sizable and growing Native American population.
North Carolina: These voters passed a constitutional amendment, referred by the Republican-controlled state legislature, to require citizens to present “photographic identification before voting” in person. A similar 2013 North Carolina law was rejected by the courts as unconstitutional, as it was determined that it was intended to deter African Americans from voting.