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JUST RELEASED: New Democracy Maps

New Democracy Maps Show Startling Differences in Election Systems and Access to Voting Across the States

3 in 5 American Voters Live in States with Below-Average Democracy Tally Rankings; Federal Legislation Would Standardize Voting Systems and Ensure Equal Access


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MEDIA CONTACTS:   

Rebecca Farmer, Movement Advancement Project
media@mapresearch.org | 303-578-4600 ext 122

November 2, 2021—Sixty percent of Americans live in states with sub-par voting laws, according to a new report from the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and One for Democracy. The State of Democracy: How Election Laws Differ Around the Country report, released today, found that access to democracy varies dramatically by state, and that states with the most restrictive voter laws also have the lowest voter turnout. The report is part of an initiative from MAP and One for Democracy called Democracy Maps (mapresearch.org/democracy-maps), a tool to track dozens of laws and policies around the country related to voting and elections.

The newly launched Democracy Maps provide both a Democracy Tally rating and detailed Democracy Profile for each state, highlighting key statistics and trends nationwide. The 44 laws and policies tracked by the Democracy Maps fall in the categories of voter registration; in-person voting; voting by mail; election security; representation and participation; and independence and integrity. The State of Democracy report analyzes the data and pulls out key trends found through these maps. MAP will update the Democracy Maps tool as voter laws are undermined or strengthened around the country.

Findings in the State of Democracy report, based on the new Democracy Maps include:

  1. Access to democracy varies dramatically across the United States. Three in five voters (141 million voters) live in states that rank in the bottom half of the Democracy Tally. Of those, 38 million voters live in states with “low” ratings—ranging from Texas to New Hampshire. The majority of states in the South rank in the bottom half of the Tally.

  2. States with the most restrictive election laws have the lowest voter turnout. Of the 10 states with the lowest voter turnout in 2020, seven also fall into the bottom 10 states in the Democracy Tally.

  3. States that are no longer subject to critical portions of the Voting Rights Act have some of the lowest Democracy Tally scores. Of the nine states formerly covered by the Voting Rights Act preclearance provisions at the time of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision, seven are ranked in the lower half of the Democracy Tally.

  4. Certain states and politicians are manufacturing false claims about election security as justification for passing restrictions on voting instead of laws and policies that would truly lead to more secure elections. For example, in 2021 Texas used false claims about election security as pretext to pass laws that allow the state legislature to restrict voting and interfere with election officials. Yet the vast majority of the state lacks voting machines with auditable paper trails and has not implemented the risk-limiting audits that are widely accepted as a best practice to protect elections from tampering and foreign interference.

  5. The largest differences across states are the laws and policies about how to vote. Alabama, for example, has a negative score due to extremely restrictive policies that limit voter participation for both voting in-person and by mail. Arkansas, Mississippi, and South Carolina all have negative scores in how to vote categories, and eight states are ranked as "low."

  6. Pieces of legislation recently introduced to Congress such as the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would eliminate most of the differences seen across state lines and would ultimately create more voting access -- as well as strengthen the integrity and security of our elections nationwide.
Snapshots from state profiles:

  1. Mississippi has the lowest overall Democracy Tally score, while Washington has the highest score. 

  2. Virginia: In recent years Virginia has modernized its election and voting laws, including passing a statewide Voting Rights Act, and ranks as the eighth highest score in the Democracy Tally. 

  3. Texas: Texas scored 0 in the independence and integrity category and ranks 48th in the overall Democracy Tally. This is in part due to an absence of modern voter registration policies, restrictions on mail voting, and a lack of secure voting machines in most jurisdictions. The low overall score is also due in part to the passage of a new law that threatens election officials with undue criminal penalties and fines, which increases the potential for partisan abuse.

  4. New Hampshire: Despite being a state with prominence as the first primary that often sets the tone for presidential campaigns, New Hampshire has an overall "low" rank in the Democracy Tally.

  5. New York: An outlier from many Democratic-led states, New York only ranks in the "fair" overall with less than half of the points possible. This is in part due to low scores in the independence and integrity categories, including the lack of same-day voter registration and lack of a Voting Rights Act.

  6. Montana: Ranks “medium” overall, but only “fair” in the Who Can Vote tally. The state could move to re-enact same day voter registration (something which was repealed in 2021), which will lead to major improvements in this category and ultimately bolster the state’s overall Democracy Tally score.
  7.  
  8. Utah: Received a score of 20.5/32.5 possible points, placing it in the “medium”category. The state has, in recent years, passed a number of voting laws and regulations which have slowly but surely improved its overall Democracy Tally.

The State of Democracy report is the first in a new series of reports that will shed light on the health of our state election and democracy laws, and the Democracy Maps themselves will continue to be expanded and updated in real time. Anticipated topics for future research and maps include campaign finance laws, the impact of restrictive policies on people of color, and protections against voter intimidation, among others.
 
“Voting is a fundamental freedom, yet we see profound differences in access to voting across the states,” said Ineke Mushovic, Executive Director of the Movement Advancement Project. “This underscores the need for better uniform policies such as those outlined in the Freedom to Vote Act, which would help ensure that all Americans have the same chance to participate in our democracy and the same assurances that their vote will be fairly and accurately counted. This is especially critical given historical and current attempts to suppress participation by Black, Indigenous and other voters of color."

“The threats to American democracy haven’t gone away—in fact they’ve accelerated with alarming speed in the states. We’re going backwards—we’re failing to ensure that any citizen who wants to vote is able to do so, that our elections are being impartially administered and that trusted elections officials are able to count every vote without intimidation or interference,” said Steve Choi, Executive Director of One for Democracy. “Instead, this analysis shows quite clearly that many states are going the wrong way - passing unnecessary voting restrictions and barriers to voting for people of color. Too many states are also undermining our elections and passing laws to allow partisan politicians to overturn election results they don’t like. Our democracy is at risk, and we’ll need nothing short of a transformational effort to save it.”

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