WASHINGTON (November 15, 2021)—Elections have been a hot-button topic in 2021, with state legislatures at the epicenter. This paper provides a high-level summary of election legislation that made its way through the states in 2021.

Georgia, Florida and Texas received substantial attention for their election legislation this year, but they were far from the only states to make changes to voting practices. Nearly every state made some kind of change to who can vote, how to vote or how votes are counted.

In a new policy short, R Street’s elections fellow Matthew Germer finds that at a high level, Republican states made changes toward cleaner voter rolls, limiting access to early and absentee voting, giving states more control over elections and indicating tougher penalties for fraudulent election activity. Meanwhile, Democratic states focused on expanding voter registration, increasing access to early and absentee voting and restoring voting rights.

While Republicans largely sought to clamp down on absentee voting, not every state fell in line. Utah and Kentucky, for example, each passed bills to make absentee voting easier and more transparent.

“Elections are a foundational institution in any democracy, and voters must be able to trust that election workers carry out their duties without bias or malfeasance. In that spirit, a number of state legislatures added increased penalties for election workers who break the law in the performance of their duties. Unfortunately, in an attempt to discourage bad behavior, lawmakers created penalties that far exceed the nature of the offense,” said Germer.

Read the full report here.

3 Top Points

(a) Georgia, Florida and Texas received substantial attention for their election legislation this year, but they were far from the only states to make changes to how their citizens vote. Nearly every state made some kind of change to who can vote, how to vote or how votes are counted.

(b) At a high level, Republican states made changes toward cleaner voter rolls, limiting access to early and absentee voting, giving states more control over elections and indicating tougher penalties for fraudulent election activity. Meanwhile, Democratic states focused on expanding voter registration, increasing access to early and absentee voting and restoring voting rights.

(c) While Republicans largely sought to clamp down on absentee voting, not every state fell in line. Utah and Kentucky, for example, each passed bills to make absentee voting easier and more transparent.