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New Analysis: Strong Photo ID Push in 2015 Session, But Momentum for Reform


At the start of the 2015 legislative session, there are strong pushes for strict photo ID requirements in some Republican-led states, but also continued momentum around reforms to improve access to the polls, according to a new analysis from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

Voting Laws Roundup 2015, released today, shows 40 restrictive bills were introduced in 17 states -- compared to 195 bills to expand voting access introduced in 25 states plus the District of Columbia. One bill to modernize registration passed in Washington, D.C.

There is a notable increase in the number of voter ID bills in 2015, with new ID measures introduced in 13 states. This push comes as several courts -- including the U.S. Supreme Court -- are poised to rule on voter ID and other restrictions. Results were mixed last year, and without clear limits set by the courts, states are ready to move forward with harsh new voting curbs.

At the same time, there is continued momentum around reforms to improve access to the polls. Two ideas recommended by the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration -- modernizing voter registration and increasing early voting opportunities -- appear in many legislative proposals, with modernization efforts gaining the most traction. Both Democrats and Republicans have sponsored such bills, but it is too early to tell whether they will move forward. There is also bipartisan movement to restore voting rights to people with past criminal convictions, improve access for military voters, and expand access to absentee ballots.

"We are still in the midst of a high-pitched battle over the right to vote," said Myrna Perez, deputy director of the Brennan Center's Democracy Program. "Politicians are still trying to manipulate the rules to make it harder for eligible citizens to vote. Fortunately, several states are on the brink of passing bipartisan reforms to modernize the voting process. As the leading democracy of the world, we must keep our elections free, fair, and accessible to all eligible Americans."

The recent push to restrict voting rights started after the 2010 election. In the next two years, at least 41 states introduced 180 restrictive bills. Overall, since the beginning of 2011, 21 states have new laws in place making it harder to vote, and several are being challenged in court. Other states have moved to improve voting, with 17 states plus the District of Columbia passing laws to expand access.

The Brennan Center for Justice is a nonpartisan law and policy institute. We strive to uphold the values of democracy. We stand for equal justice and the rule of law. We work to craft and advance reforms that will make American democracy work, for all.

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