Press release May 20, 2021
United States: Push for State Voting Restrictions Undermines Democracy
Lawmakers should seek to expand voter participation and prevent partisan interference.
In response to the recent spate of restrictive voting laws that have been proposed in more than 40 states and won passage in several others, Freedom House released the following statement:
“Election integrity is vital to democracy’s survival, but many of these proposals don’t meaningfully improve the security of the process. They simply make it harder for Americans to vote,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “The strength of US democracy comes from the plurality of voices, political views, and experiences that shape and inform it. Indeed, the basic legitimacy of our elections depends on participation by every segment of the electorate. By narrowing access to early and absentee voting, these bills risk undermining that legitimacy.
“It is particularly troubling that some proponents of these measures have used unsubstantiated criticisms of the 2020 elections as justification for new restrictions,” Abramowitz continued. “Such critiques and related challenges to the presidential results were repeatedly rejected by the courts. A clear, free, and fair democratic process was followed in the 2020 elections. Basing these bills on these disproven challenges undermines American democracy. Some of the recent bills could actually make things worse by empowering partisan poll watchers and state legislators to interfere in the process.
“In a healthy democracy, all parties should compete to garner the broadest possible support from voters, and adhere to electoral rules that maximize both voter participation and administrative impartiality. We urge lawmakers across the country to reject any legislation that contradicts these principles. Civic activists and democracy movements around the world continue to look to the United States for inspiration and support, and it is essential that we set a positive example for those seeking to establish free and fair elections in their own countries.”
Since January, the legislatures in states including Georgia, Florida, Arizona, Iowa, and Texas have advanced bills that make it more difficult to vote early or via absentee ballot, among other restrictive provisions. In all, hundreds of such bills have been introduced across nearly every state. Proponents generally point to the risk of fraud as justification, but voter fraud is already extremely rare in practice, and challenges to the integrity of the 2020 vote count were soundly rejected by independent state and federal courts.
In a recent report, From Crisis to Reform: A Call to Strengthen America’s Battered Democracy, Freedom House detailed a number of weaknesses in US democracy and called for a series of reforms, including a reduction of barriers to voting, the restoration of federal preclearance for potentially discriminatory state election rules, and the elimination of partisan gerrymandering.
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