August 5, 2021 | Priya Elangovan

August 6th is the Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. In honor of this historic piece of legislation, we wanted to do an overview of all the changes to voting laws and procedures that have passed in the last year. While much of the focus has been on states like Texas and Georgia that are restricting voting, there are many states that have expanded ballot access, or passed laws that are a mix of both in the past year. Check out AIT’s voter resources center to get up to date on the voting laws in your state. While we’re only covering the parts of bills that have already passed and impact how you can cast your ballot, there are many more bills pending across the states. Take a look at what is pending in your state and use the advocacy tool in our voter resources center to contact your state representatives.

It is important to know how the laws have changed in your state, but if a voting rights bill passes Congress in the coming months some of these laws may be vacated. The two bills pending in Congress right now are the For the People Act (H.R. 1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (S. 4263). The two bills are very different, with the John Lewis Act being a much narrower bill.

See below for our breakdown of state by state changes across different areas of voting rights laws. We are only including laws that make changes to how voters will actually cast their ballots or register to vote, not procedural or rule changes governing internal functions. For a complete overview of passed and pending recent legislation, check out this tracker from the Voting Rights Lab.

Voting by Mail and Ballot Drop Boxes

Pew Research found that 46% of voters voted absentee or by mail in the 2020 elections, up from 20% in 2016. While Democrats are more likely to vote by mail, over 30% of Trump voters reported voting by mail in 2020. Vote by mail (VBM) is popular across party lines with 65% of Americans supporting no-excuse VBM, including 44% of Republicans. It is particularly popular with voters over the age of 65, a majority of whom vote by mail (55%). In our September 2020 polls we found that voting by mail was popular among Independent women, suburban women, and women in battleground states as well. 

Legislation that Expands Vote By Mail

  • Connecticut 
    • Made the dropbox procedures from the 2020 elections permanent, putting at least one drop box in each town in the state and multiple in larger cities
  •  Illinois
    • Authorizes drop boxes through the close of polls on Election Day
    • Requires mail-in ballots to be accepted with missing or incorrect postage
  • Indiana
    • Authorize ballot drop-off locations controlled by the board of elections
  • Kentucky (KY H 574)
    • Requires each county establish at least one ballot drop box
  • Maryland (MD H 1048)
    • Authorizes the use of drop boxes for election related materials such as voter registration forms, absentee ballot applications, and absentee ballots
  • Minnesota (MN S 2)
    • Authorizes drop boxes for absentee ballot return and requires locations to be published starting 15 days before Election Day
  • Nevada
    • Automatically mail ballots to all registered voters before elections
      • Voters who choose to vote in person have to give up their mail-in ballot or attest that they did not mail-it in
    • Allows voters to authorize a third-party to return their ballot by mail, to a dropbox, or the county clerk
    • Requires ballot drop boxes at every polling place
  • New Jersey (NJ A 5373)
    • Requires drop boxes in municipalities with an average or per capita income at or below 250% of the federal poverty line
    • Requires counties to post the location of drop boxes on their website at least 45 days before an election and to provide the list of locations with vote by mail materials sent to voters
  • Vermont
    • Established a vote by mail system for all state general elections, automatically sending ballots and postage to all registered voters
    • Authorizes ballot drop boxes
  • Virginia (VA H 1888)
    • Requires ballot drop-off locations at registrars offices, early voting locations, and every Election Day polling place. Local election officials can also designate other drop-off locations on public property
      • Drop-off locations must be posted on the county’s website at least 55 days before Election Day and to include the list of drop-off locations with the instructions for absentee ballots
    • Requires election officials to provide prepaid return postage for absentee ballots

Legislation that Limits Vote by Mail or Ballot Drop Boxes

  • Arkansas (AR S 643)
    • Implicitly prohibits ballot drop boxes by requiring hand delivered ballots be returned to the physical office of the county clerk
    • Moves the deadline for returning absentee ballots to the Friday before Election Day
  • Florida (FL S 90)
    • Limits the availability of ballot drop boxes at early voting sites to polling hours
    • Eliminates mobile drop boxes
    • Prohibits state officials from sending voters mail ballots without the voter’s request
  • Georgia (GA S 202)
    • Makes drop boxes available in early voting locations only during early voting hours
    • Prohibits the secretary of state or other government officials from sending absentee ballot applications to voters without a request
  • Iowa (IA S 413)
    • Restricts the absentee ballot request period to 70-15 days before an election
    • Reduces the absentee ballot voting period by mailing ballots 20 days before an election, the previous law was 29 days
    • Bars elections officials from sending voters unsolicited absentee ballot applications – except as directed by the general assembly during a public health disaster
    • Authorizes only one ballot drop box per county located at the county commissioner’s office; the use of ballot drop boxes are not required

Absentee Voting

34 states already had no-excuse absentee voting prior to 2020. Due to the pandemic, an additional 7 expanded absentee voting to either no-excuse absentee or counted COVID-19 as a valid excuse. States that are expanding absentee voting are making no-excuse absentee voting permanent, while states looking to limit absentee voting are adding eligibility requirements or ID verification for absentee voting.

State Laws Expanding Absentee Voting

  • Connecticut  (CT HJR 58)
    • Proposes an amendment to the state constitution for No-Excuse Absentee Voting to be voted on by the public on the November 8, 2022 general election
  • New York 
    • Allowed COVID-19 as a valid excuse for absentee voting for the 2020 and 2021 primaries due to the Pandemic. 
    • In November of 2021 there will be a state constitutional amendment on the ballot to permanently expand no-excuse absentee voting

State Laws Limiting Absentee Voting

  • Arkansas (AR H 1112)
    • Requires a voter to provide an acceptable form of ID as the only means to verify a provisional ballot
  • Florida (FL S 90)
    • Requires applicants for a mail ballot to provide their Florida driver license number, state ID number, or the last four digits of their social security number in their application
  • Georgia (GA S 202)
    • Requires voters to provide an ID number from a Georgia-issued ID or photocopy of a different type of ID with an absentee ballot application
    • Requires voters to provide a state issued ID number, the last four digits of their social security number, or copy of alternative ID on the envelope containing their absentee ballot
  • Texas (TX H 3920)
    • Excludes the following from eligibility to vote absentee: 
      • Lack of transportation
      • Sickness that does not otherwise prevent a voter from appearing at the polling place on Election Day without needing personal assistance or jeopardizing the voter’s health
      • A requirement to go to work on Election Day
    • Modifies the childbirth qualification for absentee voting to voters expecting to give birth within three weeks before or after election day
    • Requires voters to affirm a disability that meets the statutory requirement on their mail ballot application

Early Voting

Early Voting has become more popular over time. About 40% of voters voted early in 2016, and a record breaking number of voters voted early in 2020, at least 100 million. 

State Laws Expanding Early Voting

  • Connecticut (CT HJR 59)
    • Proposes an amendment to the state constitution to permit early voting; the amendment will be on the ballot in the November 2022 General Elections
  • Georgia (GA S 202) – the law has a mixed impact on early voting
    • Removes the discretion of counties to offer additional early voting days and hours beyond what is required
      • Early voting is required from 9am to 5pm Monday-Friday, with the option of extending the hours from 7am to 7pm, the three weeks before an election, the second and third Saturday before Election Day, and optional early voting on the second and/or third Sundays before
      • Under the previous law, counties only had to open for one Saturday during the primaries 
      • There were several counties in Georgia including Fulton and DeKalb that had early voting hours beyond 7am – 7pm. The new law prevents these counties from holding extended hours, but does expand early voting in counties that did used a smaller window for early voting hours
  • Hawaii (HI S 548)
    • Hawaii conducts all-mail elections; the new law allows for ballot drop boxes to be opened 18 days before the election, up from 5 days
  • Indiana (IN H 1479)
    • Allows counties to offer early voting on the third Saturday before Election Day at the office of the circuit court clerk or a satellite office
  • Kentucky (KY H 574)
    • Established early voting through no-excuse in-person absentee voting during normal business hours on Thursday-Saturday before Election Day 
  • Louisiana (LA H 286 and LA H 581)
    • Moved the start of early voting for presidential elections to 18 days before Election Day (286)
    • Allows registrars to offer any number of branch offices for early voting (up from one) (581)
  • Maryland (MD H 206, MD H 745,)
    • Expands early voting hours by requiring early vote centers to be open from 7am to 8pm on every day of early voting (206)
    • Expanded the number of early voting centers required by counties based on their population (745)
  • New Jersey (NJ S 3203)
    • Requires all counties to offer early voting four days before every non-presidential primary, six days before any presidential primary and 10 days before any general election
  • Oklahoma (OK H 2663)
    • Expands early voting
      • Wednesday – Friday 8am to 6pm and Saturday 8am to 2pm the week before Election Day for even year general elections
      • Thursday – Friday 8am to 6pm and Saturday 8am to 2pm the week before Election Day for primaries, run off primaries, and presidential primaries
      • Thursday and Friday 8am to 6pm before Election Day for all other county and municipal elections
  • Virginia  (VA H 1968)
    • Allows for early voting hours on Sundays

State Laws Limiting Early Voting

  • Iowa (IA S 413)
    • Reduced the early voting period from 29 days before Election Day to 20 days before

Automatic Voter Registration 

State Laws Expanding Automatic Voter Registration

  • Connecticut (CT S 1202)
    • Requires automatic voter registration at voter registration agencies where the commissioner of motor vehicles obtains info confirming they are qualified to register to vote 
    • Requires voter registration info to be distributed at each highschool in the state every year
  • Delaware (DE S 5)
    • Requires the DMV to automatically register eligible applicants who provide documentation of their U.S. citizenship to vote or update their existing voter registration
  • Hawaii (HI S 159)
    • Requires individuals to fill out a form to register to vote, update their registration, or decline to do either when applying for a new or renewed driver’s license or state ID card
  • Nevada (NV A 432)
    • Expands AVR from the DMV to also include the Department of Health and Human Services, any agency that accepts applications for Medicaid, the state Health Insurance Exchange, and any other state or tribal agency designated by the governor
  • New York (NY A 2574)
    • Requires the State University of New York system to automatically register voters
    • Sets deadlines for agencies to begin AVR between January 2023 to January 2025 depending on the agency

Incarcerated Voting and Voting Restoration

State Laws Expanding Incarcerated Voting and Voting Restoration

  • Connecticut (CT S 1202)
    • Established restoration of voting rights immediately following release from incarceration; individuals in custody held at a community residence will retain their voting rights
  • Illinois (IL S 825)
    • Permits sheriffs in small counties to establish temporary polling places in county jails
      • Use of the polling place would be limited to incarcerated individuals who are residents of the county and have not yet been convicted
    • Creates a petition process for persons convicted of infamous crimes to petition the governor for restoration of rights including voting
  • Maryland (MD H 222 & MD S 525)
    • Requires voter registration forms and information about voting eligibility restoration to be provided with the discharge papers of formerly incarcerated people
    • Requires the State Board of Elections to provide a ballot drop box to Baltimore City centralized booking facility, making it available to incarcerated eligible voters
      • Requires the booking facility to distribute election materials and drop box instructions 
  • New Hampshire (NH H 555)
    • Adds incarceration as a valid excuse for voting by absentee ballot
  • New York (NY S 830)
    • Automatically restores voting rights to people with felony convictions immediately after their release from incarceration
  • Virginia (HJR 555)
    • Proposed constitutional amendment about restoring voting rights immediately after incarceration – to be voted on in 2022 
  • Washington (WA H 1078)
    • Automatically restores voting rights to individuals with felony convictions immediately following incarceration, individuals have to reregister

In-person Voting and Voter Registration Changes

State Laws that Limit In-Person Voting and Voter Registration

  • Iowa (IA S 413)
    • Moves the deadline for voter registration from 10 days before Election Day to 15 days before
    • Requires officials to notify voters when a polling place has changed by mail, at election offices, and on the local government website at least seven days before an election
    • Requires pollings places to close at 8 p.m., previous law closed polling places at 9 p.m.
  • Montana (MT H 176 & MT S 169)
    • Ends same day voter registration on Election Day by closing late registration at noon on the day before the election
    • Requires a person who does not have a driver’s license number, state ID number, or last four digits of their social security number to show photo ID to register to vote
      • Individuals can use a military identification card, tribal photo identification card, U.S. passport, or a Montana concealed carry permit
      • If an applicant cannot provide any of the above forms of ID, they can register using any other photo ID with their name and a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check, or other government document with the individual’s full name and current address
    • Allows a person to vote in person if they show either 
      • Montana driver’s license 
      • Montana state identification
      • Valid military identification card
      • Valid tribal photo identification card
      • U.S. passport
      • Montana concealed carry permit
      • OR a photo ID showing their name, including but not limited to a school district or postsecondary education photo identification, AND a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check, or other government document that shows the elector’s name and current address.
    • Voters who cast provisional ballots due to failure to provide an ID at the polls have until 5pm the day after Election Day to provide appropriate ID to have their ballot counted
  • New Hampshire (NH H 523)
    • Requires voters without qualifying ID while registering to vote to have their photo taken at the clerk’s office in addition to completing an affidavit
  • Utah (UT H 197)
    • Requires voters to update their political affiliation by March 31st of an even-numbered year if they want to participate in a primary of a party other than the one with which they are currently affiliated
  • Wyoming (WY H 75)
    • Requires voters to present an acceptable form of ID prior to voting in person on Election Day. Acceptable forms of voter ID include:
      • Wyoming driver’s license or state ID card
      • Tribal ID from a federally recognized tribe
      • U.S. passport
      • U.S. military card
      • Driver’s license or ID card issued by another state or U.S. territory
      • A student ID from the University of Wyoming, a Wyoming community college, or a Wyoming public school
      • A valid Medicare or Medicaid insurance card
    • Waives the fee for any person applying for a state ID card for voter ID purposes
    • Requires voters who do not present required ID to vote a provisional ballot

Remember, you can always refer back to AIT’s voter guides to get the most up to date information about your state. Check out the rest of our legislative breakdowns, and email any questions to info@aitogether.org.