How Partisan Gerrymandering Limits Voting Rights

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Every 10 years, each U.S. state redraws its electoral districts—lines on a map that have serious real-world consequences. If districts are drawn fairly, then the public can elect representatives who reflect the views of the population as a whole. But if the district lines are manipulated through partisan gerrymandering, then the legislature will be untethered from the popular will.

The Center for American Progress has published a series of reports that analyze how partisan gerrymandering affects issues from gun violence prevention to access to health insurance to policies that are important to children and families.1 This issue brief explores how gerrymandering affects voting rights. In recent years, gerrymandered legislatures have pioneered other tools to stay in power, including making it harder for voters who oppose them to cast a ballot. It is a power grab on top of a power grab.

Fortunately, both of these interrelated problems—gerrymandering and limits on the right to vote—are fixable. Indeed, citizens across the country seem to be fired up about reform.2 This could be the political moment to solve these problems and get American democracy back on track.

This issue brief examines the only four states where, after the 2018 elections, the party that won a majority of state legislative seats received only a minority of the total statewide vote: North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Because of gerrymandering, these four states dramatically failed a basic test of democracy—votes did not translate into political power. To make matters worse, gerrymandering has since gone hand in hand with increased restrictions on voting in each of these states. In other words, legislative majorities that received a minority of the votes have used their unearned power to make it harder for citizens to cast a ballot, further distancing themselves from accountability at the ballot box. CAP’s solution to this problem is highlighted in the final section of this issue brief: empowering independent commissions to draw voter-determined districts that reflect the will of the people.

North Carolina

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a part of the Voting Rights Act that, in order to prevent racial discrimination, required many North Carolina counties to “preclear” voting changes with the U.S. Department of Justice. Just one month later, the state’s Republican-controlled legislature passed harsh new restrictions on voting, “[requiring] strict voter ID to cast a ballot, [cutting] a week of early voting and [eliminating] same-day voter registration, out of precinct voting and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds.”3 One headline called the new law “The Country’s Worst Anti-Voting Law.”4 The bill was approved 73-41 in the state House and 33-14 in the Senate; not a single Democratic legislator voted in favor of the bill’s enactment, nor did any Republican legislator oppose it.5 Ultimately, the law was struck down by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that the restrictions were intended to “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”6

In 2018, North Carolina voters passed a state constitutional amendment through a ballot measure7 that requires voters to “present photographic identification before voting.”8 However, the amendment also specified that the Legislature was required to pass implementing legislation, “which may include exceptions.”9 Less than one month later, at a moment when Republican lawmakers knew that, despite their gerrymandering, they had lost their veto-proof majorities in the next session, the Legislature quickly passed a bill implementing the new requirements—which made exceptions but “declined to allow voters to use the types of photo IDs that black voters were more likely to possess.”10 Gov. Roy Cooper (D) vetoed the bill, but the Republican majority voted unanimously to override the veto, along with two Democrats.11 A legal challenge to this new law eventually made its way to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, where the court found that the law “allows for exceptions to any voter ID law, yet the evidence shows the General Assembly specifically included types of IDs that African Americans disproportionately lack,” such as driver’s licenses, passports, and military IDs.12 The court ordered that North Carolina could not enforce the law because it had the discriminatory intent of suppressing African Americans’ votes.13

  • In the 2018 North Carolina Senate election, Democrats received 50.5 percent of the vote, but Republicans won 57.9 percent of the seats.14
  • In the 2018 North Carolina House of Representatives election, Democrats received 51.2 percent of the vote, but Republicans won 54.2 percent of the seats.15

Absent gerrymandering, this effort to disenfranchise voters would have been reversed by the Legislature. In December 2018, Democratic legislators introduced the Let North Carolina Vote Act to establish affirmative policies such as automatic voter registration and same-day registration, as well as expanded online registration and early voting.16 The bill also would have partially defanged the state’s voter ID amendment by providing free IDs to anyone in need of one and by loosening restrictions on acceptable forms of identification, including allowing voters to use IDs that are expired.17 According to one of the bill’s sponsors, the bill was not expected to pass through the Republican-led legislature but was intended to show that state Democrats were united behind reforms that would make it easier for people to vote.18 Democratic candidates won a majority of the statewide vote in 2018; with a fair set of districts, they would have held a majority of seats in the state Legislature and been able to implement positive reforms expanding voting access. Instead, supporters of expanding voting rights in the Legislature have been blocked from passing more equitable laws and forced to rely on the courts to ensure equal access to the ballot.

Michigan

After gerrymandering districts in 2010, Republican lawmakers in the Michigan Legislature blocked several bills between 2011 and 2016 that would have made it easier to register and vote, including proposals to allow same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting.19 In the absence of these reforms, voters were required to register nearly a month before Election Day, and only those with certain excuses qualified to receive an absentee ballot.20 Thus, it was unusually difficult for some Michigan residents to register and vote—particularly young people, who are more mobile and more likely than older Americans to miss traditional registration deadlines due to unfamiliarity with election requirements.21 Out of all 50 states, Michigan saw the largest gap in voter turnout between 18- to 24-year-olds and the general population during the 2016 election.22 Nonetheless, Republican legislators refused to modernize the voting process, claiming without evidence that changes would open the state up to widespread voter fraud.23

In 2018, frustrated by continued legislative inaction, voting rights groups in Michigan, led by the American Civil Liberties Union, gathered signatures for a ballot measure to expand voting rights.24 By a 2-1 margin, voters approved the ballot measure—Proposal Three—which amended the state constitution to allow no-excuse absentee voting and same-day registration during early voting and on Election Day.25 Any voter in Michigan can now apply to receive an absentee ballot without an excuse—an option that has proven essential for helping mitigate public health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic.26 Although a majority of voters clearly favored these reforms, a ballot measure was the only way to enact them, as they stood little chance of passing through Michigan’s gerrymandered Legislature, despite broad support from Democratic legislators. Notably, that same year, Michigan voters also passed an anti-gerrymandering ballot measure proposed by the grassroots group Voters Not Politicians, transferring the power to draw districts from the Michigan Legislature to a new Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.27

  • In the 2018 Michigan Senate election, Democrats received 51.3 percent of the vote, but Republicans won 57.9 percent of the seats.28
  • In the 2018 Michigan House of Representatives election, Democrats received 52.4 percent of the vote, but Republicans won 52.7 percent of the seats.29

Notwithstanding these advancements, Michigan voters still face myriad obstacles to voting. Michigan law continues to prohibit anyone from hiring transportation services—such as taxis or rides through Uber or Lyft—to help voters reach their local polling place, unless the voter is physically unable to walk.30 Another law prohibits anyone other than a family member from returning a voter’s absentee ballot application.31 Such restrictions disproportionately disenfranchise young and elderly Americans, people of color, and people with disabilities who may live far from polling places and lack reliable transportation or who may require physical assistance in returning their ballots. Both laws are currently being challenged in court,32 but the majority in the Legislature has so far refused calls to eliminate these restrictive requirements. In fact, the Legislature, along with the Michigan Republican Party and National Republican Committee, have intervened to defend both rules in the ongoing suit.33 In February 2020, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes responded, “When you deny communities a voice in our political process, that’s rigging the game. When you fight to keep laws that disproportionately deny black and brown voters access to the ballot, that’s ‘rigging the game.’”34

Other restrictions on voting have been resolved, belatedly, outside the Michigan Legislature. In 2018, state law required that certain first-time voters who registered by mail or through registration drive must vote in person and that voters’ current address must match the address on their driver’s license.35 A group of Michigan-based college students brought a lawsuit challenging these restrictions, arguing that they created unnecessary and discriminatory barriers to voting, particularly for young people. Democrats had previously attempted to pass legislation expanding access to vote by mail for first-time voters but were blocked from doing so.36 Upon entering office in 2019, Michigan’s newly elected Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) settled the case, declaring invalid the requirement that certain first-time voters cast ballots in person and instituting a voter education campaign and other initiatives to ensure college students were able to register to vote using their campus address.37

Had Michigan’s district maps reflected the will of state voters, many restrictive laws would no longer be in place. Yet as long as Michigan’s maps are gerrymandered, legislators will continue to obstruct commonsense election reforms while preserving oppressive laws that disenfranchise many of their own constituents.

Pennsylvania

In 2012, Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Legislature followed a familiar tactic in the voter suppression playbook—it passed a strict voter ID law requiring all Pennsylvania voters to present a specific form of identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, when showing up to vote.38 The measure, which passed 104-88 in the state House and 26-23 in the Senate, was unanimously opposed by Democrats as well as a handful of Republican dissenters.39 Voter ID laws have repeatedly been shown to discriminate against people of color, low-income Americans, young people, the elderly, and people with disabilities.40 Furthermore, in this instance, partisan politics was a driving force behind the bill. Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai told a group of fellow state Republicans, “Voter ID—which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania—done,” an acknowledgement that the law would suppress voting in communities that were more likely to support Democratic candidates.41 A state court struck down the law in 2014.42

  • In the most recent elections for each Pennsylvania Senate seat, in 2016 and 2018, Democrats received 50.5 percent of the vote, but Republicans won 54.2 percent of the seats.43
  • In the 2018 Pennsylvania House of Representatives election, Democrats received 54.1 percent of the vote, but Republicans won 58.0 percent of the seats.44

In 2019, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed a bill largely along party lines—111-88 in the state House and 31-19 in the Senate—that would have prohibited straight-ticket voting. Only four Democratic members in the House and three in the Senate voted in favor of the bill.45 Many Democrats warned that the rule change would cause longer lines and confusion at the polls, placing a particular burden on “under-resourced polling locations,” predominantly those located in communities of color.46 In 2018, a federal judge blocked a similar law in Michigan because it was expected to disproportionately affect African Americans.47 Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) vetoed the bill, but it came at a cost: He also had to forgo $90 million in needed upgrades for the state’s voting machines, to which the Legislature had attached the provision banning straight-ticket voting.48 Ultimately, Gov. Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature entered into an agreement to eliminate straight-party voting in favor of new voting reforms and $90 million in election funding.49 The compromise legislation was opposed by a majority of Democrats who remained concerned over potential disenfranchisement.50

Compared with other states, Pennsylvania has been slow to adopt vital policies that help Americans register to vote and cast ballots that count. The state lacks same-day voter registration and automatic voter registration.51 Democratic lawmakers have introduced bills to establish these and other pro-voter policies that, if adopted, would significantly expand the ability of Pennsylvania residents to make their voices heard.52 Gov. Wolf has similarly expressed his support for automatic and same-day registration.53 Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe these policies will be adopted given that, for most of the past decade, the gerrymandered Legislature has worked to erect—rather than remove—barriers to voting.

Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, gerrymandering shifted control of the state Assembly outright in 2018, from Democrats who won a majority of the statewide votes to Republicans who fell short of a majority. In the Senate, Democrats fell 1 percent short of a majority of the vote, likely because of aggressive voter suppression targeting communities that disproportionately support Democrats.54

  • In the most recent elections for each Wisconsin Senate seat, in 2016 and 2018, Democrats received 49.0 percent of the vote, but Republicans won 54.2 percent of the seats.55
  • In the 2018 Wisconsin State Assembly election, Democrats received 54.2 percent of the vote, but Republicans won 63.6 percent of the seats.56

In 2011, Wisconsin’s newly Republican-controlled Legislature passed one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country.57 The bill passed 60-35 in the state Assembly with all Republicans voting in favor, along with one independent and two Democrats.58 In the Senate, the measure passed along strict party lines; every Senate Democrat voted against the bill.59 The now-infamous law requires Wisconsin voters to present a driver’s license, passport, or other specified form of identification when voting.60 In 2016, it was estimated that nearly 300,000 registered voters lacked necessary forms of identification leading up the general election.61 Many of the individuals without qualifying ID were people of color, young people, and elderly people. Since taking office in 2019, Gov. Tony Evers (D) has attempted to make obtaining requisite ID easier and more accessible.62 However, the gerrymandered Legislature has declined to relax or eliminate the requirement, even in the face of a pandemic.

The Wisconsin Legislature has also fought in favor of a mass voter purge of more than 200,000 people.63 The Legislature persuaded a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit that sought to prevent the voter purge, expressing concern over the fact that notifications sent by the state failed to inform voters of the consequences of not re-registering.64 An attorney for the Republican-controlled body requested that the suit not be considered until a related legal proceeding filed by conservative activists—which supported the removal of voters from the rolls—could be resolved.65 Mass voter purges are especially common in places with histories of racial discrimination.66 Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler has condemned the purge as anti-democratic, saying in December 2019, “We’re supposed to have a system where voters choose their elected officials, not a system where the powerful choose who the voters will be.”67

Legislators’ disdain for free and fair elections was on full display in spring 2020 when Wisconsin voters were forced to risk their lives to vote amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Republican-controlled Legislature refused to heed desperate warnings from government and public health officials who noted that proceeding with the state’s April 7 primary election as planned would endanger voters and election workers and exacerbate community spread of COVID-19.68 As described in a CAP column:

“The Republican-controlled Legislature’s refusal to postpone the primary ensured that state and local leaders did not have enough time to prepare by implementing necessary measures for conducting the election safely and efficiently. As a result, Americans were forced to make a terrible choice between shielding themselves against COVID-19 and exercising their fundamental right to vote.”69

Across the state, hundreds of polling places were shuttered, with thousands of poll workers resigning due to health concerns.70 Early voting was slashed or eliminated entirely in some locations, and thousands of requests for absentee ballots were never fulfilled. Recent reports suggest that election activity led to a spike in new COVID-19 cases.71 Prior to the election, Democrats in the state Legislature proposed a package of bills that would have made the election safer by expanding access to absentee voting and rescinding voter ID requirements during state emergencies. These proposals would have protected voters from having to endanger their health by traveling to in-person polling places and visiting the Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain a qualifying ID.72

Republican legislators seemed to view low voter turnout as a possible advantage to the re-election of an incumbent conservative state Supreme Court judge.73 Not to be dissuaded from exercising their fundamental rights, Wisconsin voters turned out in large numbers and unseated the favored judge,74 though they had to risk their health in the process.

How to fix gerrymandering and restore voting rights

If majorities of voters cannot elect majorities of legislators, that is a failure of democracy. If those ill-gotten majorities then use their power to disenfranchise voters, that is a democratic downward spiral.

Fortunately, voters and reform advocates have the capacity to fight back. As more and more citizens and political leaders have come to understand the problem of partisan gerrymandering, there has been a slow but steady string of anti-gerrymandering victories. Several states, including California and Arizona, have put reforms in place that prohibit politicians from drawing their own districts, entrusting independent citizen-led commissions to draw the districts instead.75 In Michigan, citizen-activists passed a ballot initiative to create their own independent commission with specific criteria for district-drawing. And in 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill—H.R. 1, or the We the People Act—that would require every state to use independent commissions to draw their federal districts.76 The bill was blocked by the U.S. Senate under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but it lays a strong foundation for future reform efforts.77

As CAP explained at length in a previous report,78 taking the power to draw districts away from incumbent politicians is the first step toward any serious reform. The second step is instituting voter-determined districts, wherein people’s votes dictate how districts are drawn. If 55 percent of voters support one political party, for example, then that party should win as close as possible to 55 percent of the seats. In a democracy, this is the commonsense path to actually representing the will of the people. Finally, districts should be drawn so that people who have been underrepresented throughout American history—such as African American, Latinx, and other communities of color—are fully represented in Congress and state legislatures.79

Majority rule is a cornerstone of U.S. democracy—and so is the right to vote. Fortunately, in many cases, the two go hand in hand. Fixing gerrymandering is a major part of undoing the democratic downward spiral in the United States and ensuring that democracy, at every level, serves the values and interests of its citizens.

Alex Tausanovitch is the director of Campaign Finance and Electoral Reform at the Center for American Progress. Danielle Root is the associate director of Voting Rights and Access to Justice at the Center.

Endnotes

  1. Alex Tausanovitch, Chelsea Parsons, and Rukmani Bhatia, “How Partisan Gerrymandering Prevents Legislative Action on Gun Violence” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2019), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/democracy/reports/2019/12/17/478718/partisan-gerrymandering-prevents-legislative-action-gun-violence/; Alex Tausanovitch and Emily Gee, “How Partisan Gerrymandering Limits Access to Health Care” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2020), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/democracy/reports/2020/02/24/480684/partisan-gerrymandering-limits-access-health-care/; Alex Tausanovitch and others, “How Partisan Gerrymandering Hurts Kids” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2020), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/democracy/reports/2020/05/28/485495/partisan-gerrymandering-hurts-kids/.
  2. Associated Press, “More states to use redistricting reforms after 2020 census,” March 5, 2020, available at https://apnews.com/15945f8bd618d3c749e7c56d3a572d71.
  3. Ari Berman, “The Country’s Worst Anti-Voting Law Was Just Struck Down in North Carolina,” The Nation, July 29, 2016, available at https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/the-countrys-worst-anti-voting-law-was-just-struck-down-in-north-carolina/; Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. 529 (July 29, 2013), available at https://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/shelby-county-v-holder/.
  4. Berman, “The Country’s Worst Anti-Voting Law Was Just Struck Down in North Carolina.”
  5. North Carolina General Assembly, “House Bill 589,” available at https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookup/2013/H589 (last accessed June 2020); North Carolina General Assembly, “Voter Information Verification Act, H.589, 2013-2014 sess.,” available at https://www.ncleg.net/enactedlegislation/sessionlaws/html/2013-2014/sl2013-381.html (last accessed June 2020).
  6. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the decision. See Adam Liptak and Michael Wines, “Strict North Carolina Voter ID Law Thwarted After Supreme Court Rejects Case,” The New York Times, May 15, 2017, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/15/us/politics/voter-id-laws-supreme-court-north-carolina.html.
  7. North Carolina State Board of Elections, “11/06/2018 Official General Election Results – Statewide,” available at https://er.ncsbe.gov/?election_dt=11/06/2018&county_id=0&office=REF&contest=0 (last accessed May 2020).
  8. North Carolina General Assembly, “Article VI Suffrage and Eligibility to Office §§ 2(4), 3(2),” available at https://www.ncleg.gov/Laws/Constitution/Article6 (last accessed June 2020).
  9. Ibid.
  10. Billy Corriher, “Another blow to North Carolina’s new voter ID law,” Facing South, February 26, 2020, available at https://www.facingsouth.org/2020/02/another-blow-north-carolinas-new-voter-id-law.
  11. North Carolina General Assembly, “House Roll Call Vote Transcript for Roll Call #1354 2017-2018 Session,” available at https://www.ncleg.gov/Legislation/Votes/RollCallVoteTranscript/2017/H/1354 (last accessed June 2020); North Carolina General Assembly, “Senate Roll Call Vote Transcript for Roll Call #824 2017-2018 Session,” available at https://www.ncleg.gov/Legislation/Votes/RollCallVoteTranscript/2017/S/824 (last accessed June 2020); Associated Press, “Federal Judge to Halt Latest North Carolina Voter ID Mandate,” WWAY 3, December 28, 2019, available at https://www.wwaytv3.com/2019/12/28/federal-judge-to-halt-latest-north-carolina-voter-id-mandate/.
  12. Sam Levine, “Federal judge blocks North Carolina’s voter ID law, citing its discriminatory intent,” The Guardian, January, 1, 2020, available at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jan/01/north-carolina-voter-id-law-blocked-discriminatory.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Authors’ calculations are based on state legislative elections returns data purchased from Klarner Politics. See Klarner Politics, “Home,” available at https://www.klarnerpolitics.org/ (last accessed November 2019).
  15. Ibid.
  16. North Carolina General Assembly, “House Bill 1115,” available at https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookup/2017/H1115 (last accessed June 2020); Let North Carolina Vote Act, H.B. 1115, 2017-2018 sess. (December 4, 2018), available at https://www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2017/Bills/House/PDF/H1115v1.pdf.
  17. Let North Carolina Vote Act, H.B. 1115, 2017-2018 sess. (December 4, 2018), available at https://www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2017/Bills/House/PDF/H1115v1.pdf.
  18. Melissa Boughton, “House Democrats propose a bill to expand NC voting rights,” The Progressive Pulse, December 4, 2018, available at http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2018/12/04/house-democrats-propose-a-bill-to-expand-nc-voting-rights/.
  19. Danielle McLean, “Election experts endorse Cory Booker’s explanation for Trump winning Michigan,” ThinkProgress, August 3, 2019, available at https://archive.thinkprogress.org/cory-booker-was-right-voter-suppression-helped-trump-win-michigan-eada3f38e838/.
  20. Julie Mack, “Record number of Michiganders registered to vote in 2016 election,” MLive.com, October 17, 2016, available at https://www.mlive.com/news/2016/10/record_number_of_michiganders.html; Ken Haddad, “A closer Look at Michigan’s Proposal 18-3, initiative to expand voter registration, absentee voting,” ClickOnDetroit.com, November 2, 2018, available at https://www.clickondetroit.com/all-about-michigan/2018/11/02/a-closer-look-at-michigans-proposal-18-3-initiative-to-expand-voter-registration-absentee-voting/.
  21. Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, “Voter Registration among Young People in Midterm Elections” (Medford, MA: Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, 2014), available at https://circle.tufts.edu/sites/default/files/2019-12/FS_RegistrationInMidterms_2014.pdf.
  22. RJ Wolcott, “Does Michigan make it too hard for college students to vote? Some say yes,” Lansing State Journal, October 4, 2018, available at https://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/2018/10/04/michigan-voters-turnout-college-students-voting-register/1290815002/.
  23. Christine Ferretti, “Same-day voter registration sparks fight,” The Detroit News, October 29, 2018, available at https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2018/10/29/same-day-voter-registration-sparks-fight/1437203002/.
  24. Julie Mack, “Michigan approves Proposal 3’s election reforms,” MLive.com, November 7, 2018, available at https://www.mlive.com/news/2018/11/hold_michigan_proposal_3s_elec.html.
  25. Ibid.
  26. RJ Wolcott, “Does Michigan make it too hard for college students to vote?”.
  27. Paul Egan, “Michigan’s anti-gerrymandering proposal is approved. Now what?”, Detroit Free Press, November 8, 2018, available at https://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/elections/2018/11/07/proposal-2-anti-gerrymandering-michigan/1847402002/.
  28. Authors’ calculations are based on state legislative elections returns data purchased from Klarner Politics. See Klarner Politics, “Home.”
  29. Ibid.
  30. Matt Reynolds, “Michigan Sued Over Ban on Transporting Voters to Polls,” Courthouse News Service, November 13, 2019, available at https://www.courthousenews.com/michigan-sued-over-ban-on-transporting-voters-to-polls/.
  31. Malachi Barrett, “Republicans defend Michigan voting laws challenged by Democratic PAC,” MLive.com, February 20, 2020, available at https://www.mlive.com/public-interest/2020/02/republicans-defend-michigan-voting-laws-challenged-by-democratic-pac.html.
  32. Riley Begin, “Liberal super PAC sues Michigan over voting restrictions,” Bridge Michigan, November 13, 2019, available at https://www.bridgemi.com/michigan-government/liberal-super-pac-sues-michigan-over-voting-restrictions.
  33. Craig Mauger, “GOP wants to intervene in legal fight over Michigan voting laws,” The Detroit News, February 20, 2020, available at https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2020/02/20/gop-wants-intervene-legal-fight-over-michigan-voting-laws/4819139002/; CaseMine, “Priorities USA v. Nessel,” available at https://www.casemine.com/judgement/us/5ecbd6074653d01fa480f548 (last accessed June 2020).
  34. Michigan Democrats, “MDP Chair Lavora Barnes Blasts GOP Voter Suppression Efforts at Voting Rights Round Table,” Press release, February 21, 2020, available at https://michigandems.com/mdp-chair-lavora-barnes-blasts-gop-voter-suppression-efforts-at-voting-rights-roundtable/; Anthony Gockowski, “Michigan Dem Chair Lavora Barnes Accuses Republicans of ‘Voter Suppression’ for Defending Election Laws,” The Tennessee Star, February 24, 2020, available at https://tennesseestar.com/2020/02/24/michigan-dem-chair-lavora-barnes-accuses-republicans-of-voter-suppression-for-defending-election-laws/.
  35. Claire Hao and Melanie Taylor, “College Dems lawsuit brings about new changes to promote college-age voting,” The Michigan Daily, June 11, 2019, available at https://www.michigandaily.com/section/government/college-dems-lawsuit-brings-about-new-changes-promote-college-age-voting.
  36. Michigan Legislature, “Senate Bill 0507 (2017),” available at http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(yyh1fdg4jnzr0ygm4bbjqjfq))/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=2017-SB-0507 (last accessed June 2020); Michigan House Democrats, “Reps. Camilleri, Moss, Pagan, Gay-Dagnogo, Wittenberg Offer Bills to Increase Voting Access,” Press release, November 14, 2017, available at https://housedems.com/article/reps-camilleri-moss-pagan-gay-dagnogo-wittenberg-offer-bills-increase-voting-access; Michigan Legislature, “House Bill 4161 (2001),” available at http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(rc5ymwb2xj301r4tpc40vmg0))/mileg.aspx?page=getobject&objectname=2001-HB-4161&query=on (last accessed July 2020); Michigan Legislature, “House Bill 4161: Absentee Ballots: Allow for First-Time Voters Who Registered by Mail,” available at http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(d0xus130byztvgijktmztywm))/documents/2001-2002/billanalysis/House/htm/2001-HLA-4161-S.htm (last accessed July 2020).
  37. Heather S. Meingast, “Re: College Democrats at the University of Michigan, et al. v Benson, et al., Case No. 18-cv-12722 (ED Mich),” State of Michigan Department of Attorney General, June 5,

    2019, available at https://2vmhfw1isbe32j3tgn3epw3x-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/College-Dems-at-the-UofM-v-Benson-Counsel-ltr01-1.pdf; Hao and Taylor, “College Dems lawsuit brings about new changes to promote college-age voting”; Amy Gardner, “Michigan agrees to make it easier for college students to vote,” The Washington Post, June 6, 2019, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/michigan-agrees-to-make-it-easier-for-college-students-to-vote/2019/06/05/5a5a24c8-87c3-11e9-a870-b9c411dc4312_story.html; Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, “DCCC Wins Major Voting Rights Victory in Michigan to Stop Republican Voter Suppression Tactics,” Press release, June 5, 2019, available at https://dccc.org/dccc-wins-major-voting-rights-victory-michigan-stop-republican-voter-suppression-tactics/.

  38. Phil Hirschkorn, “Strict voter ID law passes in battleground Pennsylvania,” CBS News, March 15, 2012, available at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/strict-voter-id-law-passes-in-battleground-pennsylvania/.
  39. Tara Jerry, “Corbett Signs Voter ID Bill,” Politics PA, March 14, 2012, available at https://www.politicspa.com/corbett-signs-voter-id-bill/32748/; John L. Micek, “Pennsylvania Senate Approves Voter ID,” The Morning Call, March 7, 2012, available at https://www.mcall.com/news/mc-xpm-2012-03-07-mc-pa-voter-id-senate-vote-20120307-story.html.
  40. American Civil Liberties Union, “Oppose Voter ID Legislation – Factsheet” (New York: 2017), available at https://www.aclu.org/other/oppose-voter-id-legislation-fact-sheet; Brennan Center for Justice, “Citizens Without Proof: A Survey of Americans’ Possession of Documentary Proof of Citizenship and Identification” (New York: 2006), available at https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/d/download_file_39242.pdf.
  41. Mark Shade, “Legal challenge to Pennsylvania voter ID law begins in court,” Reuters, July 25, 2012, available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-voterid-pennsylvania/legal-challenge-to-pennsylvania-voter-id-law-begins-in-court-idUSBRE86O1L120120725
  42. Mark Memmott, “Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Struck Down,” NPR, January 17, 2014, available at https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/01/17/263364689/pennsylvania-voter-id-law-struck-down
  43. Elections for the Pennsylvania Senate are staggered, so these numbers combine the total votes and seats from the most recent elections for each Senate seat, some of which occurred in 2016 and some of which occurred in 2018. Authors’ calculations are based on state legislative elections returns data purchased from Klarner Politics. See Klarner Politics, “Home.”
  44. Ibid.
  45. Charles Thompson, “Pa. Legislature approves $90M for new voting machines; bill would eliminate straight party voting,” The Patriot-News, June 27, 2019, available at https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/06/pennsylvania-house-approves-state-funding-for-voting-machine-replacements-bill-now-moves-to-the-senate.html; LegiScan, “Pennsylvania Senate Bill 48,” available at https://legiscan.com/PA/votes/SB48/2019 (last accessed July 2020).
  46. Danielle McLean, “Pennsylvania’s governor just stopped the latest Republican voter suppression scheme,” ThinkProgress, July 9, 2019, available at https://archive.thinkprogress.org/pennsylvanias-governor-just-stopped-the-latest-republican-voter-suppression-scheme-46f78f5a7878/.
  47. Samuel Corey, “Why Republicans want to ban straight-ticket voting in Michigan’s November election,” Detroit Metro Times, September 10, 2018, available at https://www.metrotimes.com/news-hits/archives/2018/09/10/why-republicans-want-to-ban-straight-ticket-voting-in-michigans-november-election.
  48. McLean, “Pennsylvania’s governor just stopped the latest Republican voter suppression scheme.”
  49. Office of Governor Tom Wolf, “Governor Wolf Sign Historic Election Reform Bill, Including New Mail-In Voting,” Press release, October 31, 2019, available at https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/governor-wolf-signs-election-reform-bill-including-new-mail-in-voting/; Jonathan Lai, “Pa.’s election system is on the verge of the largest changes in decades — in time for the 2020 election,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 23, 2019, available at https://www.inquirer.com/politics/pennsylvania/pa-election-reform-deal-20191023.html; Pennsylvania General Assembly, “Regular Session 2019-2020: Senate Bill 421,” available at https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/billInfo.cfm?sYear=2019&sInd=0&body=S&type=B&bn=421 (last accessed July 2020).
  50. Akela Lacy, “Democratic Governor’s Voting Reform Bill Would Eliminate Straight-Ticket Voting in Pennsylvania,” The Intercept, October 30, 2019, available at https://theintercept.com/2019/10/30/pennsylvania-voting-reform-straight-ticket/; LegiScan, “Pennsylvania Senate Bill 421,” available at https://legiscan.com/PA/votes/SB421/2019 (last accessed July 2020); See generally, Office of Rep. Stephen Kinsey, “Kinsey: PLBC opposes Senate Bill 421 for its negative impact on marginalized communities,” Press release, October 29, 2019, available at https://www.pahouse.com/Kinsey/InTheNews/NewsRelease/?id=111186.
  51. National Conference of State Legislatures, “Automatic Voter Registration,” April 14, 2020, available at https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/automatic-voter-registration.aspx; Brennan Center for Justice, “Preparing Your State for an Election Under Pandemic Conditions,” available at https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/preparing-your-state-election-under-pandemic-conditions#t1 (last accessed June 2020).
  52. Pennsylvania Senate Democrats, “Election Access and Reform,” available at https://www.pasenate.com/priorities/election-protection/ (last accessed June 2020); Julian Routh, “Pa House Dems push package of voter bills that fall in line with national group’s policies,” Pittsburg Post-Gazette, March 11, 2020, available at https://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-state/2020/03/10/Pennsylvania-House-Democrats-Pa-voting-bill-package/stories/202003100138.
  53. Office of Governor Tom Wolf, “Governor Wolf Announces 21st Century Voting Reform Plan for Pennsylvania,” Press release, March 26, 2018, available at https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/governor-wolf-announces-21st-century-voting-reform-plan-pennsylvania/.
  54. Cameron Smith, “Voter ID tied to lower Wisconsin turnout; students, people of color, elderly most affected,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 30, 2018, available at https://www.jsonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2018/09/30/voter-id-tied-lower-wisconsin-turnout/1480862002/.
  55. Elections for the Wisconsin Senate are staggered, so these numbers combine the total votes and seats from the most recent elections for each Senate seat, some of which occurred in 2016 and some of which occurred in 2018. Authors’ calculations are based on state legislative elections returns data purchased from Klarner Politics. See Klarner Politics, “Home.”
  56. Ibid.
  57. National Conference of State Legislatures, “Voter ID History,” available at https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/voter-id-history.aspx (last accessed June 2020).
  58. Wisconsin State Legislature, “2011 Assembly Vote 330: AB 7,” available at https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2011/related/votes/assembly/av0330 (last accessed June 2020); Patti Wenzel, “Voter ID Passes in Wisconsin: Here’s What the Bill Does,” Urban Milwaukee, May 19, 2011, available at https://urbanmilwaukee.com/2011/05/19/voter-id-is-coming-to-wisconsin-but-what-else-is-in-the-bill/.
  59. Wisconsin State Legislature, “2011 Senate Vote 192: AB 7,” available at https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2011/related/votes/senate/sv0192 (last accessed June 2020); Mary Spicuzza., “Legislature passes voter ID bill; Walker to sign it Wednesday,” Wisconsin State Journal, May 19, 2011, available at https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/legislature-passes-voter-id-bill-walker-to-sign-it-wednesday/article_ceaa2760-822c-11e0-887b-001cc4c03286.html.
  60. My Vote Wisconsin, “Photo ID Required,” available at

    https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/PhotoIDRequired (last accessed June 2020).

  61. Matt Zapotosky, “In Wisconsin, a controversial voter-ID law could help choose the president,” The Washington Post, August 10, 2016, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/appeals-court-in-wisconsin-voters-cant-use-affidavit-in-place-of-photo-id/2016/08/10/f56d715e-49f5-11e6-90a8-fb84201e0645_story.html; Dale Ho, “Let People Vote: Our Fight for Your Right to Vote in This Election,” American Civil Liberties Union Blog, November 3, 2016, available at https://www.aclu.org/blog/voting-rights/fighting-voter-suppression/let-people-vote-our-fight-your-right-vote-election.
  62. Kelly Meyerhofer, “Tony Evers orders plan to help voters obtain IDs from DMV offices,” Wisconsin State Journal, March 5, 2019, available at https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/tony-evers-orders-plan-to-help-voters-obtain-ids-from-dmv-offices/article_6686c7c7-f38b-51fa-bffb-5bae272e0040.html; Jessie Opoien, “Tony Evers orders DOT to develop plan to make voter ID documents more accessible,” The Capital Times, March 4, 2019, available at https://madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/election-matters/tony-evers-orders-dot-to-develop-plan-to-make-voter-id-documents-more-accessible/article_a726edc9-5d6f-5a40-bd41-d53fee899bb7.html.
  63. Scott Bauer, “Wisconsin Legislature seeks to kill lawsuit on voter purge,” Minnesota Star Tribune, January 6, 2020, available at https://www.startribune.com/wisconsin-legislature-seeks-to-kill-lawsuit-on-voter-purge/566758532/.
  64. Ibid; Michael Parsky and Kynala Phillips, “Wisconsin’s battle over voter rolls puts 129,000 registrations in peril,” Sun Prairie Star, June 8, 2020, available at https://www.hngnews.com/sun_prairie_star/news/article_1d8ce4dc-aedf-55ee-b93e-ff78e01f8c61.html.
  65. Ibid.
  66. Leila Rafei, “Block the Vote: Voter Suppression in 2020” (New York: American Civil Liberties Union, 2020), available at https://www.aclu.org/news/civil-liberties/block-the-vote-voter-suppression-in-2020/.
  67. Stephen Goin, “Wisconsin Democrats prepare for voter registration push after judge rules to remove 234,000 from voter roles,” NBC 12, December 17, 2019, available at https://www.wjfw.com/stories.html?sku=20191217185632&status=viewfull.
  68. Alex Seitz-Wald and Shaquille Brewster, “GOP lawmakers reject Wisconsin governor’s call for delay in election deadline,” NBC News, April 3, 2020, available at https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/wisconsin-governor-calls-special-legislative-session-consider-delaying-election-deadline-n1176186.
  69. Danielle Root, “Wisconsin Primary Shows Why States Must Prepare Their Elections for the Coronavirus,” Center for American Progress, April 27, 2020, available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/democracy/news/2020/04/27/484013/wisconsin-primary-shows-states-must-prepare-elections-coronavirus/.
  70. Ibid.
  71. Nicholas Reimann, “Coronavirus Infections Spiked In Wisconsin After In-Person Election, Study Says,” Forbes, May 19, 2020, available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicholasreimann/2020/05/19/coronavirus-infections-spiked-in-wisconsin-after-in-person-election-study-says/#6671dc3514b3.
  72. Wisconsin State Capitol, “Senator Chris Larson Announces Voter Protection Legislative Package,” Press release, March 24, 2020, available at https://www.wispolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/200324LARSON.pdf; Wisconsin State Legislature, “Representative Jonathan Brostoff Assembly District 19,” available at https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2019/legislators/assembly/1813 (last accessed June 2020).
  73. Mark Joseph Stern, “Liberal Challenger Defeats Conservative Incumbent in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race,” Slate, April 13, 2020, available at https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/04/jill-karofsky-wisconsin-supreme-court.html.
  74. Ian Millhiser, “Report suggests Republican voter suppression tactics failed in Wisconsin,” Vox, May 20, 2020, available at https://www.vox.com/2020/5/20/21263596/republican-voter-suppresion-failed-wisconsin-supreme-court.
  75. Associated Press, “Number of states using redistricting commissions growing,” March 21, 2019, available at https://apnews.com/4d2e2aea7e224549af61699e51c955dd.
  76. Ella Nilsen, “Senate Democrats unveiled an anti-corruption companion bill. Mitch McConnell is already blocking it.”, Vox, March 27, 2019, available at https://www.vox.com/2019/3/27/18284171/senate-democrats-anti-corruption-hr1-schumer-mcconnell.
  77. Ibid.
  78. Alex Tausanovitch, “Voter-Determined Districts: Ending Gerrymandering and Ensuring Fair Representation” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2019), pp. 9–11, available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/democracy/reports/2019/05/09/468916/voter-determined-districts/.
  79. Amber Phillips, “The striking lack of diversity in state legislatures,” The Washington Post, January 26, 2016, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/01/26/the-real-problem-with-diversifying-congress-state-legislatures-are-even-less-diverse/.