How will changes in state voting laws and procedures affect 2024 constituency?

OSWEGO, N.Y. – As the 2024 presidential election approaches, citizens all over America are preparing to vote on Election Day. However, with many changes to voting laws and procedures enacted in the previous years, it may be significantly more difficult for individuals in specific states to cast their ballots. 

Since January 2021, more than 18 states have passed over 30 laws and 440 bills restricting voting access. States like Georgia, Nebraska, Texas, Mississippi, Florida, and Iowa, have enforced legislation that curbs mail voting: such as requiring additional information on mail-in ballot applications, shortening windows to request a mail ballot, banning drop boxes, and increasing voter ID requirements. 

“There’s really compelling political science data that shows that a lot of restrictive laws have actually had very little effect when it comes to final turnout numbers,” said Allison Rank, associate professor of American politics at SUNY Oswego. “However, what it takes for organizations to get those numbers to be the same Is kind of an unfair comparison because the idea is that then those organizations are spending a ton of time and a ton of resources basically in response to those laws.” 

However, Dustin Czarny, Onondaga County’s Democratic elections commissioner, says that any restrictive voting laws will ultimately have a negative effect on voter turnout. 

“Unfortunately, I think that’s kind of the whole point for some of these restrictive voting measures that have been launched,” said Czarny. “They want certain populations to vote less.” 

According to Czarny, there’s been a disturbing trend where many states have enacted restrictive voting laws since 2020, when former President Donald Trump claimed the election was stolen, leading Republican states to increase restrictive voting laws. 

“A lot of Republican-led states use that rhetoric to go out and try to get people to change their voting laws to actually impact student communities, urban communities, and people who want to vote in alternative methods.” 

While many states are making it more difficult to vote, there are also many laws that limit voter registration as well. Fifteen states have new voter registration laws making it more difficult to register and stay registered, as well as tighter ID laws. 

“It’s problematic. I think every governmental entity should be geared towards trying to get as many people voting as possible as opposed to as few,” said Czarny. 

According to the Pew Research Center, voter turnout in the 2020 presidential election was the highest recorded rate of any presidential election since the 1900s, with 66% of the eligible voting population casting ballots. Additionally, ​​45% of voters in the 2020 election stated they cast their ballots by absentee or mail-in ballot, while only 36% of voters cast absentee or mail-in ballots in 2022. 

Even though many states across America are launching these restrictive voting laws, New York has taken the initiative to open up in terms of voting access and procedures. 

Since the last presidential election in 2020, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has enacted several voting procedure laws that actually open up opportunities for voters to send in their ballots. The biggest shift- allowing voters to request mail-in ballots without defining a specific reason. 

“We’ve actually traditionally been a terrible state in terms of voting access,” said Rank. “The traditional standards here for absentee ballots were that you had to have a specific reason to request an absentee ballot. All of the requests had to be done on paper, and there was no tracking method.” 

Until 2019, New York had some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country. It didn’t have the option for early voting or large use of absentee ballots.

“It was Tuesday or nothing,” said Czarny.

In previous years, citizens could only qualify or request absentee ballots if they were going to be out of their county on Election Day, had an illness or disability preventing them from getting to the polls, were deployed overseas, or were detained in jail awaiting trial for non-felony crimes. 

Nowadays, no reason needs to be given to vote early by mail, allowing voters to choose the most convenient time for themselves to vote.

Additionally, timeframes for sending in ballots by mail and registering to vote in New York have been extended. Voter registration deadlines were formerly 25 days before an election, but have been extended to 10 days before the election. Absentee ballots have seven days to arrive after the day of the election to be counted. 

Lastly, New York citizens have previously needed a state I.D. in order to register to vote, but with loosened restrictions, that is no longer the case. Now, you only have to have an account to register to vote. 

“It’s about voter enfranchisement,” said Matt Fleming, elections specialist at Oswego County Board of Elections. “It’s just trying to open up the possibility of voting by mail to more people. Anything to help increase voter participation is a good thing.”