President Joe Biden has been in office for less than two weeks, but in state legislatures across the US, Republicans still reeling from former President Donald Trump's electoral loss are devising ways to restrict the vote, from eliminating ballot drop boxes to requiring the notarization of absentee ballot applications.
In 2010, Republicans made historic gains in state legislatures, flipping 24 chambers that year, allowing them to control the redistricting process for the past decade. In additional drawing scores of safe GOP House seats, the party pushed a wave of socially-conservative legislation that centered on restricting abortion rights and minimizing the collective bargaining power of public-sector labor unions.
While Biden and Trump both won 25 states in the 2020 presidential election, Biden flipped five states that Trump carried in 2016, which included Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, along with Nebraska's 2nd congressional district.
These presidential swing states are now home to some of the most dramatic election-related proposals that have been floated or filed in the legislature for a vote. However, even in states where Trump won easily, including Mississippi and Texas, voting restrictions stand a good chance of passing.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, 106 bills aimed at restricting voting access have been introduced or filed in state legislatures in 28 states, representing a nearly threefold increase from the same period last year.
The proposed laws ignore the overwhelming evidence that voter fraud is incredibly rare.
Last November, countering Trump's debunked claims of voter irregularities, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that the November 2020 election "was the most secure in American history."
Here are some of the voting proposals that are being debated across the country:
Since 1952, Republicans have won Arizona in every presidential election except for Bill Clinton's 1996 win and Biden's victory last year.
Biden won the state by less than 11,000 votes out of roughly 3.3 million votes cast, performing strongly with Latino voters and even making inroads with a segment of the state's Republican voters.
With the support of high-profile Republicans including Cindy McCain, the wife of the late GOP Sen. John McCain, and former Sen. Jeff Flake, Biden tapped into the independent-minded nature of the state, similar to the campaign strategy of Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, who defeated appointed GOP Sen. Martha McSally last November.
However, conservative activists vigorously challenged the election results, including Trump, who criticized GOP Gov. Doug Ducey for certifying the election results, a normally-routine process. Since the GOP controls the state legislature in Arizona, the raft of restrictive bills are being taken up in committees.
According to The Arizona Republic, Republican legislators have proposed bills that would:
- Allow the legislature to void the results of a presidential election "at any time before the presidential inauguration"
- Give the legislature the power to award two of the state's 11 Electoral College votes
- Award the state's electoral votes by congressional district in lieu of the current winner-takes-all system
- Curtail and/or end mail-in voting
- Liming mail-in voting to those who cannot physically reach a voting precinct
- Limit voting centers in each county according to the population size
- Require mail-in ballot envelopes to be notarized or returned in-person
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, was sharply critical of House Bill 2720, which was introduced by GOP state Rep. Shawnna Bolick and would allow the legislature to overturn the election results.
"It is a punch in the face to voters," Hobbs said in an NBC News interview. "It absolutely, 100%, allows a legislature to undermine the will of voters."
She also tweeted: "So really, we should just get rid of the presidential election altogether? In reality, that's what this bill would do."
Georgia was the scene of deep political consternation for the GOP. Last November, Biden became the first Democratic presidential nominee to win the state since 1992. Trump insisted that he won the state for months, asking GOP Gov. Brian Kemp to overturn the election results and even pressuring GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" the 12,000 roughly votes that he would need to overcome Biden's margin of victory.
In the end, Trump caused so much internal political turmoil in the state that Democrats, fresh off of Biden's win, had an enthusiasm advantage for two Senate runoff elections that featured then-GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue running against Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively.
Warnock and Ossoff won their races, handing control of the Senate to the Democrats and giving the party their strongest anchor in the Deep South in years.
Georgia Republicans, stung by the losses, are now hoping to implement additional voting restrictions.
Top state officials, including Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, are backing a more rigorous voter identification process for absentee balloting.
A GOP lawmaker has proposed a bill that would require proof of identification, twice, in order to vote absentee.
Last year, House Speaker David Ralston floated stripping Georgia voters of their ability to choose the secretary of state by putting a measure on the ballot that would allow voters to cede that responsibility to the GOP-controlled legislature.
Michigan voted for every Democratic presidential nominee from 1992 to 2012. When Trump pulled off a narrow upset in 2016, Democrats pledged to outwork the GOP and win back the Midwestern state and its 16 electoral votes.
In 2018, the party had a banner year, electing Gretchen Whitmer as governor, Dana Nessel as attorney general, and Jocelyn Benson as secretary of state.
Last November, Biden won the state by over 150,000 votes and a nearly 3% margin (50.6%-47.8%), securing a victory in a state that Democrats were thrilled to put back in their column.
The state legislature is still in GOP hands, a lingering result of the party's 2010 midterm election sweep, but Whitmer also serves as a check on any far-reaching proposals.
Michigan GOP Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey told The Detroit News that he would like to improve the state's qualified voter files and party leaders, including home state Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, said last year that the state needed "election reform."
With its 20 electoral votes, Pennsylvania has long been a top prize for Democrats, who won the state by combining overwhelming victories in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with growing suburban strength and blue-collar support in cities like Allentown and Scranton.
Democrats won Pennsylvania in every presidential election from 1992 to 2012, but similar to Michigan, Trump pulled off a narrow upset in 2016.
Biden, who was born in Scranton and represented neighboring Delaware in the Senate for 36 years, won the state 50%-49% over Trump last November.
Democrats, eager to build on Biden's victory, have already zeroed in on the Senate seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Pat Toomey in 2022 and the governor's race to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf that same year.
However, Republicans, who repeatedly sought to overturn the 2020 election results, including tossing out millions of mail-in ballots, are steadfastly committed to imposing new restrictions.
There are currently GOP proposals on the table to nix no-excuse absentee balloting and make it easier for state officials to toss ballots that have a signature mismatch if the ballot isn't fixed within six days of being notified, according to the Brennan Center.
Wisconsin is another key state in the Democrats' Midwestern presidential electoral puzzle. After narrow wins in 2000 and 2004, the party won the state easily in 2008 and 2012 before seeing Trump narrowly win the state in 2016.
After a hard-fought race, Biden won the state over Trump by roughly 20,000 votes out of more than 3.2 million votes cast.
The Trump campaign, incensed that votes in Democratic-leaning Milwaukee County put Biden over the top, demanded a recount in Milwaukee and Dane County, home of Madison, the state's liberal capital city. Not only was Biden's win reaffirmed by the recounts, but he picked up additional votes.
A GOP legislator is floating a proposal to allocate eight of the state's 10 electoral votes by congressional district, starting with the 2024 election, and the party may also seek additional restrictions on absentee balloting.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has the ability to wield his veto pen, but he is also up for reelection in 2022.
Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District
Last year, Biden carried Nebraska's Omaha-based congressional district, the first time a Democrat had won the district since Barack Obama in 2008.
The win was a breakthrough for the party in the otherwise overwhelmingly Republican state.
Since 1991, Nebraska has awarded two electoral votes to the overall statewide winner, with the remaining three votes awarded to the winner of each congressional district.
In 2020, Trump secured four electoral votes to Biden's one electoral vote.
A new GOP bill introduced in the state legislature would put into place a winner-takes-all system; if it had been in place in 2020, Trump would have won all five electoral votes.
The 2nd congressional district contains sizeable Black and Latino populations, and opponents of the bill argue that the legislation would be detrimental to minority voters.
American Civil Liberties Union Nebraska executive director Danielle Conrad said as much in an interview with ABC News.
"You see very clearly that there was a lot of excitement particularly from voters of color in the Omaha metro-area who engage in that process over the last few election cycles because they had that meaningful opportunity," she said.