Report: Trend shifts to expand voting access

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Hundreds of bills to improve access to voting have been introduced in the lead up to the 2014 mid election, according to an analysis from the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law.

In just the first five weeks of the new year, 190 bills to expand voting access have been introduced in 31 states compared with 49 restrictive measures in 19 states. In 2013, lawmakers in 46 states introduced 237 bills to improve voting. Ten states ultimately passed 13 bills to expand access and eight states passed nine restrictive laws last year.

The analysis shows a reversal from before the 2012 election, when 41 states introduced 180 restrictive voting bills. Overall, 19 states passed 27 measures making it harder to vote.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan bill to strengthen the Voting Rights Act has been introduced in Congress and a presidential commission has issued a report recommending reforms to shorten long lines at the polls, expand early voting and modernize registration.

“For years, partisans have moved swiftly to restrict the right to vote. Now, given new momentum, there is a key opportunity to transform voting in America,” said Myrna Pérez of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “We will continue to monitor efforts that make it harder to vote. But it is encouraging to see so many important leaders embrace the need to fix voting.”