In the past year, the United States has seen a record-breaking number of bills introduced or enacted into law at the state level to restrict access to voting. Leading up to and just following the 2020 general election, lawmakers in forty-seven states introduced more than 360 bills that would constrain voting rights. And recent reporting indicates that the state-level anti-voting rights efforts are part of a centrally coordinated strategy. By contrast, at the federal level, congressional leaders and President Biden are promoting legislation, the For the People Act (H.R. 1 / S. 1), to expand and protect the right to vote. The Brennan Center for Justice, the leading nonpartisan policy institution on democracy, has stated that “[t]he For the People Act is the only way to stop the nationwide wave of state voter suppression legislation in one fell swoop.”

The Century Foundation believes it is important for voters to clearly understand what is at stake in the federal legislation and from state actions. We recently published two commentaries on the For the People Act—one that looks at how it would repel this recent attack on representative democracy and one that analyzes how it would help close the gap in voter participation between wealthy and non-wealthy voters. To illustrate the seriousness of the effort to restrict voting rights, below we highlight examples of changes to voter laws in just some of the forty-seven states that have recently enacted new voter-suppression laws or have legislation under consideration.

table 1
Examples of Recently Proposed or Passed Changes to Voter Laws

STATUS: Signed into law May 11, 2021

    • – Removes voters from the state’s Permanent Early Voting List.

STATUS: Signed into law May 7, 2021

    • – Requires any mail ballots to be signed by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day to be counted and provides no grace period for voters to sign or fix their signature.

STATUS: Legislation pending

    • – Would require voters on the early voting list to verify their signatures with an additional form of identification.


STATUS: Signed into law May 6, 2021

    • – Adds more identification requirements to request a mail-in ballot, and forces voters to request them every election cycle instead of every two cycles as in the past.
    • – Restricts the use of ballot drop boxes by requiring them to be staffed by election workers and subjecting election officials to a $25,000 fine for failure to comply.
    • – Gives new powers for partisan election observers and the governor to appoint replacements to fill certain local political positions vacated by people running for higher office.


STATUS: Signed into law March 31, 2021

    • – Makes it a misdemeanor to hand out “any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink” to anyone standing in line to vote.
    • – Makes mobile voting illegal.
    • – Voters who plan to vote by mail must provide a driver’s license or state ID number.
    • – The Secretary of State is removed as a voting member of the State Election Board.
    • -The State Election Board may suspend county or municipal superintendents and appoint an individual to serve as the temporary superintendent in a jurisdiction.


STATUS: Signed into law March 8, 2021

    • – Moves voters to inactive status every time they miss a federal election.
    • – Requires polls to close an hour earlier than before.
    • – Shortens the early voting period by 9 days.
    • – Reduces the amount of paid time off employers must give people to go vote.
    • – Restricts access to absentee voting by decreasing the time to apply for absentee ballots.


STATUS: Legislation pending

    • – Would require voters to show ID when voting in person and when requesting an absentee ballot.
    • – Would prohibit local governments from providing prepaid postage on any absentee ballot return envelope.
    • – Would impose regulations on absentee ballot drop boxes, which clerks would need to use video surveillance to monitor the cut-off time right at 5pm.


STATUS: Legislation pending

    • – Would prohibit election officials from sending absentee ballot applications to voters who have not requested them.
    • – Would make it illegal to offer 24-hour and drive-through voting.
    • – Would allow poll watchers to videotape voters receiving assistance to vote.

For more information and tracking on efforts to restrict, or to expand, voting rights, please visit the Brennan Center for Justice’s tracker here.