Democrats Win Strong Backing for Voting Reforms in New Poll
(Bloomberg) -- A strong majority of Americans favor Democratic voting reforms being pushed in Congress and in state legislatures, but the two parties became much more polarized on the issues during the Trump era, according to a new survey.
In a national survey by the Pew Research Center released Thursday, 78% of Americans supported two weeks of early in-person voting, 70% backed allowing felons to vote after they complete their sentences, 68% supported making Election Day a holiday and 61% backed automatically registering eligible citizens to vote.
While majorities of Republicans are among those who support these ideas, they do so by much smaller margins than Democrats, and support has fallen over the last three years. Democratic support for the measures remains largely unchanged.
Those voting changes are all included in a Democratic voting bill that passed the House in March but remains stalled in the Senate due to Republican opposition.
They are also included in several state proposals, including 126 bills in various states to expand early voting, 107 to restore felon voting rights and 76 to create or expand automatic voter registration programs, according to a bill tracker from the Brennan Center for Justice.
The drop in Republican support is largest for expansive vote-by-mail, which former President Donald Trump slammed as ripe for fraud before and after the 2020 election despite no evidence.
In a similar survey just before the 2018 midterms, 57% of Republicans and people who lean Republican said that any voter should be allowed to vote early or by mail without an excuse. That has now flipped, with 62% saying it should only be allowed with a reason.
Republican support for automatic voter registration dropped from 49% in 2018 to 38% now, while the share of Republicans who support removing voters from the rolls if they have not cast a ballot recently or otherwise confirmed their address has grown from 53% in 2018 to 68% now.
In March, Republican Senator Ted Cruz claimed inaccurately that automatic voter registration would include “millions of illegal aliens who have driver’s licenses, who are getting welfare benefits, who attend public universities.” The proposals are limited to eligible citizens.
The process of removing voters from the rolls, sometimes characterized by critics as “use it or lose it,” was approved by the Supreme Court in a 2018 decision. The Iowa legislature adopted the same standard this year, and several other Republican-led states are considering it.
Under federal law, voters cannot be removed from the rolls unless they have failed to vote in two consecutive federal elections and not responded to a postcard seeking confirmation of their address. Under the new proposals, states would send the postcards earlier, shortening the process for removing voters from the rolls.
While Republicans supported the idea in the poll, only 46% of respondents overall and just 27% of Democrats backed it.
A majority of Americans also backed the idea of requiring all voters show government-issued photo ID to vote, including 61% of Democrats and 93% of Republicans.
Eighteen states already require photo ID to vote. Eighty-four bills filed this year would add new requirements or tighten standards for voter ID, while 29 would loosen voter ID standards.
Several states have already passed new voting laws that include these proposals.
Democratic officials in Washington have opposed voter ID laws despite its broad support even among their own constituents. They cite studies that show non-White voters tend to be less likely to have driver’s licenses and passports.
In a 2020 op-ed, now-Vice President Kamala Harris said “suppressive voter ID laws” are part of an effort by Republicans “to suppress and attack the voting rights of people of color.”
Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia have expanded early voting, while New York expanded automatic voter registration.
At the same time, many Republican-led states have moved to tighten election laws.
A new Iowa law reduces early voting by nine days. And Arkansas dropped exceptions for voter ID for people with religious objections to being photographed and those who forgot to bring their ID to the polling place.
The survey by the Pew Research Center was conducted of 5,109 U.S. adults in April. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.
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