A new report from Common Cause, “Extremists’ Plot to Nationalize Voter Suppression: 2023 and Beyond,” examines a new wave of anti-voter bills that have been introduced by Republicans in Congress representing an attempt to nationalize voter suppression. These extremist bills have largely been ignored by the public and the media, but should Republicans gain control of the U.S. House or Senate, these bills would represent a serious threat to the freedom to vote for millions of Americans.
These federal bills trade on the same thoroughly debunked Big Lie that state legislators used as cover to introduce more than 400 anti-voter bills after the failed insurrection on January 6th. Several dozen of those state bills have become law making it harder for many Americans to vote, particularly in Black and Brown communities. The proposed federal legislation represents the same threat to representative democracy, but on a national level.
“Instead of silencing voters on a state-by-state basis, members of Congress introducing these anti-voter bills may try to disenfranchise certain voters in one fell swoop,” said Sylvia Albert, Director of Voting and Elections for Common Cause. “The bills are an attempt to harness the Big Lie in order to pass legislation that allows politicians to choose who can vote and who can’t vote in our elections. The January 6th Committee’s vital work exposed the conspiracy built on lies by Trump and his inner circle to undermine Americans’ faith in our elections and to provoke an armed, racist mob to storm the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election. We must prevent those lies from being weaponized in Congress in order to attack our democracy from within.”
Veiled behind patriotic-sounding names, these bills undermine the freedom to vote in the U.S. They make it harder for Americans to register to vote, harder to cast a ballot, and harder to fund and administer our elections.
Some of the most egregious bills introduced by congressional Republicans so far include legislation to:
- Eliminate the National Voter Registration Act (aka “motor voter” law), which has helped tens of millions of Americans register to vote since it was passed in 1993;
- Prohibit states from counting a ballot cast in a federal election if it is received by the state after the date of the election, regardless if the ballot was completed and mailed by election day, which could disenfranchise tens of thousands of Americans currently serving in the military, among others;
- Prohibit states from using automatic voter registration systems, which have already been adopted in more than 20 red, blue, and purple states, from Alaska to West Virginia;
- Prohibit states from providing absentee ballots to many voters;
- Restrict the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots;
- Block many Americans from no-excuse absentee voting;
- Prevent most individuals from voting at a polling place during an early voting period;
- Significantly curtail the Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) ability to provide investments to states to help run safe and secure elections; and
- Relitigate the 2020 presidential election by establishing a commission to investigate the results of an election that then-President Trump’s own appointees at the Department of Homeland Security declared was the “most secure in American history”.
“These anti-voter bills have largely flown under the radar for the last two years, but if Republicans regain control of Congress that will all change and the freedom to vote will be under attack on Capitol Hill,” said Aaron Scherb, Common Cause Senior Director of Legislative Affairs. “But over that same time period, sweeping pro-voter protections like the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act and For the People Act have been passed in the U.S. House repeatedly and garnered majority support in the Senate only to be blocked by Republican filibusters. The fight will go on, and if it means reforming the filibuster to protect every Americans’ freedom to vote, then so be it.”
Common Cause has developed two nonpartisan resources this year to help voters evaluate lawmakers’ performance and candidates’ positions on protecting the freedom to vote and strengthening our democracy. The 2022 Democracy Scorecard, assesses all members of Congress on between 15-18 votes and bills related to voting rights and democracy issues, while our congressional candidate questionnaire, “Our Democracy 2022,” asks candidates to respond to 20 key voting rights and democracy questions. Both tools allow citizens to enter their address to see what their elected officials and/or congressional candidates will do to protect and strengthen our democracy.
This analysis of congressional anti-voter bills was authored by Aaron Scherb, Common Cause senior director of legislative affairs, and Sylvia Albert, Common Cause director of voting and elections.
To read the “Extremists’ Plot to Nationalize Voter Suppression: 2023 and Beyond,” report, click here.