Changes to mail-in voting could play a decisive role in these swing states

(The Hill) – The COVID-19 pandemic has turned absentee voting into an essential part of the 2020 election, with more than 39 million Americans choosing to vote by mail.

Since then, countries have been reckoning with the consequences.

Former President Trump’s baseless claims of fraud in his loss to President Biden included suggestions that absentee voting was partly to blame, prompting his allies in GOP-led states to impose restrictions on mail-in voting.

Other states have made temporary pandemic measures permanent, making it easier to cast ballots ahead of elections.

It remains to be seen what role postal voting will play in the 2022 midterms, but it is sure to be closely watched, especially in key states.

Here are five states where mail-in voting — and the changes made in the past two years — could play a decisive role in close races.


After the 2020 presidential election, Arizona passed several laws that change the process and procedures of voting by mail.

Many of these laws will not take effect until 2023 and beyond, however, the law that will be in effect requires that ballots with missing signatures be thrown out if they are not repaired by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

The law codifies what was already common practice for many units in the state, however some units previously provided a “cure period” for missing signatures.

Arizona will continue to have a 5-day recovery period for mail-in ballots where the signature does not match the voter’s signature on file.

The bill making the changes, SB 1003, was hotly contested but ultimately upheld by Arizona’s 9th District Court.

Liz Avore, senior counsel for the nonprofit Voting Rights Lab, said the bill would disenfranchise voters and be particularly harmful to Native American voters in Arizona, a constituency that leaning liberal in 2020according to data from the station.

“A lot of these ballots are going to come in, you know, on Election Day or just before Election Day, and so requiring voters to have the issue resolved by 7 p.m. on Election Day is obviously going to turn off a lot of voters,” Avore said.

“That will turn off a lot of voters, especially in tribal lands where the post office is more inconsistent and the PO box is often further away for people to get to.”

Arizona has a series of closely watched races pitting Trump-backed pro-choice deniers against more moderate Democratic candidates in an increasingly purple state.

Democrat Katie Hobbs is tied with Republican Kari Lake in recent polls in the governor’s race, while incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D) maintains a significant lead over GOP candidate Blake Masters. There’s also a close race between Democrat Kirsten Engel and Republican Juan Ciscomani.


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has avoided saying whether the 2020 election was rigged, but he has taken a number of actions to crack down on alleged election fraud.

In May 2021, he signed SB 90, which requires mail-in voters to provide a driver’s license or state identification card or the last four digits of their Social Security number to receive an absentee ballot. The election official must verify the number submitted at the time to ensure it matches the number on the voter’s record in order for the voter to receive a ballot in the mail.

Avore said many voters may not have those numbers on hand because they were not previously required when registering to vote by mail or applying for a vote by mail.

“They wouldn’t be able to vote by mail anymore unless, you know, they took action to go and actually add those numbers to their voter registration file,” Avore said.

Other provisions of the law require that requests for absentee ballots be received at least 10 days before the election, or be denied. Any issues with ID numbers must also be resolved before the 10-day deadline in order for mail-in ballot requests to be processed on time.

In April, DeSantis signed legislation to replace ballot boxes with secure ballot pick-up stations, which are open only during early voting hours and must be staffed by an election official when open.

Avore said box limits can disproportionately affect voters of color.

“There’s also research that shows that when drop boxes are … evenly spaced throughout the precinct, it’s actually particularly beneficial for voters of color,” Avore said. “Voters of color disproportionately rely on drop boxes.”

Voters of color also vote disproportionately for Democrats. In the 2020 presidential election, 89 percent of black and 53 percent of Hispanic voters in Florida voted for Biden, according to NBC. exit poll.

Florida’s new election laws also make it a third-degree felony for an individual to possess more than two ballots, other than their own and those of immediate family members, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

“I think what that’s going to do is it’s going to limit the ability of voters to ask, you know, either a trusted friend or a caregiver to pick up or drop off a mail-in ballot for them, and that’s going to have an impact on the elderly, work and mobility impaired voters in the state of Florida ,” said Bobby Hoffman, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Democracy Division.

While DeSantis maintains a wide lead over Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, other high-profile races are closer, including Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) bid to retain his seat against Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla).


Georgia officials have rejected Trump’s pleas to overturn his 2020 loss to Biden, but have been much more willing to pass legislation targeting potential voter fraud.

Under SB 202, which was passed last year, those who vote by mail in the state must provide some form of identification in order to receive and vote by mail. The law also shortens the time frame in which someone can request an absentee ballot from 180 days before an election to 78 days.

In addition, all absentee requests must be received at least 11 days before the election for a voter to receive a ballot, up from the 4-day deadline that was in effect in 2020. years.

“A lot of people won’t be aware that they won’t be able to vote in person during that time frame, so that shortens the window for them to request a mail-in ballot,” Hoffman said. “For some of those people, that may mean, unfortunately, that they can’t vote because of it.”

In Georgia’s parliamentary elections last November, 52 percent of applications to vote by mail were rejected because voter requests were made in the last 11 days before the election, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitutionwhile only 26 percent of those denied leave voted in person on Election Day.

Another provision of the law also limits the hours the drop boxes can be open, changing that from 24 hours a day to whenever polling stations are open for early in-person voting. In addition, the account has a provision that limits the boxes.

Analysis NPR, WABE and Georgia Public Broadcasting tracking this change in drop boxes found “more than half of the roughly 550,000 voters who cast ballots using a drop box in the state’s 2020 general election lived in four metro Atlanta counties — Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett — where about 50% of voters are people of color.”

The analysis also showed that in these four counties alone, the number of drop boxes dropped from 107 to 25 under the new law, and that a total of a quarter of voters in the state (1.9 million people) experienced an increase in travel time to the drop box from 2020.

Mail-in voting has typically gone more in favor of Democrats in Georgia. In 2020, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) won his Senate seat after receiving 395,037 more mail-in ballots than his Republican challenger, Kelly Loeffler.

Warnock is in a close race this year with Trump-backed former soccer star Herschel Walker. Democrat Stacey Abrams, the state’s leading voting rights advocate, is also making a second attempt to defeat Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who she lost to in 2018.

The Georgia Democratic Party said in a statement provided to The Hill that it is committed to ensuring that the new law does not prevent anyone from voting.

“While no eligible voter should face challenges when voting, we are working hard to educate and empower voters, defend access to the ballot box, and protect every voice so that all Georgians can be heard.”


Democratic-controlled Nevada has moved in the opposite direction, enacting policies likely to increase turnout in the 2022 election.

In 2021, lawmakers passed AB 321, which requires county clerks to mail a ballot to all active registered voters at least 14 days before the election, making Nevada one of eight states to offer universal mail-in ballots.

“It will provide them [Nevada voters] increased comfort,” Hoffman said. “In states that have a vote-by-mail process, we typically see an increase in turnout among the electorate as well.”

Nevada’s Senate race will be among the most watched, with former Trump-backed Attorney General Adam Laxalt facing incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.). Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) is also in a tight re-election race against Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, the GOP candidate.

Robert Uithoven, a consultant for Laxalt’s campaign, said the universal mail system means some ballots are delivered to homes where people haven’t lived in years.

“There are videos all over the internet of hundreds of ballots piling up in apartment complex mailboxes, you know, trash cans in mailrooms and mail-in ballots scattered all over the state. It does not bring encouragement in the electoral process,” said Uithoven.

“I don’t think it puts us at a disadvantage compared to our opponent, but it’s certainly not an endorsement of the policy,” he added.


Like Florida and Georgia, Texas also passed a law in 2021 that would require voters to provide a form of ID to receive a mail-in ballot. But Texas law also requires ID to return a completed ballot — and the numbers must match.

Critics of the policy have pointed out that voters in Texas could provide a valid form of ID and still be kicked out because they simply forget what form of ID they used when requesting an absentee ballot.

SB 1 has already become a source of confusion for many Texas voters. According to NPR, 24,636 ballots were rejected during the March 1 primary in Texas, representing a rejection rate of 12.38 percent for mail-in ballots.

The rejection rate of mail-in ballots was less than 1 percent in the 2020 presidential election, according to previous reports Texas Tribune.

Democrats had more ballots rejected in the primary, with 14,281 compared to 10,355 for Republicans, however, the rejection rate was similar for voters of both parties.

“What we saw play out in Texas disproportionately affected voters of color in terms of shutting them out of the democratic system,” Avore said.

And as in other states, voters of color were more likely to vote Democratic in Texas. According to CBS exit poll.

SB 1 also places new restrictions that severely limit who can assist a voter in filling out a ballot and under what circumstances.

Governor Greg Abbott currently has a healthy lead over Democratic challenger Beth O’Rourke in the polls. However, the House race for control of the 34th District is being watched closely, between Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) and Republican challenger Mayra Flores.

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