New Democracy Maps

Federal & State Voting Rights Acts

While the prevailing perception has been that voting rights in the United States are universally guaranteed, our state-by-state system of election laws means access to voting and the cornerstones of our democracy vary widely depending on where a voter lives. Uneven access to democratic participation, coupled with the increasing partisan attacks on and attempts to control our election systems, reveals the need for renewed federal legislation that sets a more consistent and independent standard and process across the country. In the absence of the preclearance requirements struck from the federal Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court in 2013, a small number of states have enacted state-level voting rights acts which seek to achieve similar goals to the federal law. These policies work by requiring local jurisdictions to receive permission from state authorities before changing voting procedures, and by prohibiting racial discrimination in election administration. 

Related Resources


State of Democracy: 2023 Mid-Year Legislative Wrap Up

July 2023 - This brief takes a look back at which states saw the most change in early 2023 in our Democracy Tally, both positive and negative, as well as examining policy trends in voting and elections.


How Election Denialism Threatens Our Democracy and the Safeguards We Need to Defend It

May 2023 - Detailing the level of risk to each state posed by election denialism and the resulting threats when the proper safeguards are not in place, this report offers over 10 recommendations for ways in which states can protect their elections.


How the Freedom to Vote Act Would Improve Democracy in the States

January 2022 - This brief outlines some of the emerging threats to the independence and integrity of our democracy and shows the startling difference in access to voting and democracy by state.

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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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