All you need to know about the political battle over voting rights in US
- Despite the pandemic, Americans turned out in record numbers for the 2020 election
- Now, Republicans in many states are making it harder to vote
- Joe Biden said that protecting voting rights is a historic "test"
On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden said that protecting voting rights from what he called Republican "election subversion" is a historic "test."
"It's up to all of us to protect that right. It's a test of our time," he said in a speech in Philadelphia.
Despite a raging pandemic, Americans turned out in record numbers for the 2020 election, however, Republicans in many states are marking that achievement with new laws to make it harder to vote.
According to Republican claims, the expanded hours for voting, wider access to mail-in ballots, and other accommodations made considering the coronavirus pandemic led to extensive voter fraud in the November election. However, there is no evidence to back the claim.
Democrats argue that Republicans, after losing the White House and Senate in the November vote, simply want to curb the voting rights of people, especially African-Americans, Native Americans and others who are more likely to support the Democrats.
Starting from January 17, days before Biden took office, Republican-controlled states have adopted laws to restrict voting, and more are weighing such actions, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
Let's take a look at the kinds of restrictions Republicans are pushing:
1. As a part of the nationwide reformation, some Republican-controlled states recently passed legislation that demands voters register early and do so with an official ID card like a driver's licence.
However, according to the ACLU, 21 million people do not have drivers' licenses or any other form of official ID. The civil liberties group says ID requirements hit the poor more than others, and can result in a 2-3% fall in voter turnout.
2. While, traditionally, political parties have gone from door to door to help people register, in Republican Ron DeSantis governed Florida new rules have been implemented to restrict this freedom.
Similarly, in North Dakota, one rule that Republicans proposed that was rejected was to require a street address from anyone who registers. The move specially targeted native Americans who live on reservations without street designations and largely use Post Office boxes.
3. Owing to the coronavirus situation, in the 2020 election the number of people who voted by mail more than doubled from four years earlier, resulting in many ballots being delivered late and not counted until days after election day. Reports mostly suggest that people who vote by mail are likely to be supporters of the Democratic Party.
Hence, Republicans in a number of states have proposed or passed new legislation limiting who can vote by mail. Georgia cut in half the time allowed to obtain a mail-in ballot.
Arizona proposed to require that every mailed ballot be post-marked five days before an election -- ignoring evidence from 2020 that many mailed ballots are not post-marked.
In June Wisconsin's Republican legislature voted to require anyone wanting a mail-in ballot to formally request it in writing, with a copy of their ID. That will discourage mail-in or absentee ballots.
Georgia and other states have moved to limit the availability of drop-boxes for mail ballots, also making it more difficult to cast a ballot.
Republicans also seek to stop people from delivering votes to polling places for persons who are unable to do so. In Arizona and Montana, this strategy is being employed against native Americans who reside on huge reservations and vote overwhelmingly Democratic. In Montana, a new legislation prohibits organised ballot gathering on reservations.
4. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, early voting in person was expanded by the number of days and hours per day in many states, helping to expand overall turnout. Now legislators in some states are shortening the number of days and the hours for early voting. That can make it difficult for people who work long hours to be able to vote, which can affect poorer people disproportionately. It can also lead to longer lines to vote on election day, which also discourages people.
5. On election day in Georgia last year -- as in several other states in many election cycles -- voters in largely Democrat, African-American districts had to wait in line for hours. To help them with the long wait volunteers handed out water and snacks. However, now the Republican-majority government in Georgia is banning people from providing snacks, while not taking action to make sure lines are shorter.