Battleground 2024: How Swing States Changed Voting Rules After the 2020 Election

by Voting Rights Lab

October 5, 2023

New Changes Implemented for the 2024 Election Will Test The Resilience of American Democracy

Ahead of the 2020 election, nearly every state in the country adjusted its voting systems – expanding access to mail voting and in-person early voting to make casting a ballot more safe and accessible at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following record turnout in the 2020 presidential election, baseless conspiracies fueled a relentless drive to restrict voting in some states. Since the 2020 election, lawmakers have rewritten – and in some cases, are still in the process of rewriting – the rules that govern our elections and democracy.

The Voting Rights Lab’s newest report — “Battleground 2024: How Swing States Changed Voting Rules After the 2020 Election” examines how key changes in voting policy in eight swing states (as identified by Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics) could have significant impacts on the 2024 election.

In five of these states, the outcome of the 2020 presidential election was determined by less than two percent, with some of those states seeing even closer margins – Arizona and Georgia were each determined by less than half a percentage point. Changes to how elections are run can have a profound impact when margins are so razor thin.

Through our analysis, we identified four swing states where voters will face significant new restrictions. Their ability to overcome these restrictions could play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of the 2024 presidential election.

  • In North Carolina, voters must adapt to the state moving from having no ID requirement  to the one of strictest mail ballot ID laws in the country – and a new photo ID requirement for in-person voting as well. Pending legislation may make it far more likely that mail ballots cast by eligible voters will be discarded. 
  • With the lapse of pandemic-era expansions to mail voting and in-person early voting, New Hampshire is now one of only three states in the country where the only option for most voters will be to cast a ballot in person on Election Day in the 2024 presidential election. In addition, new rules will likely result in the rejection of ballots cast by eligible voters who register to vote on Election Day.
  • Georgia voters must overcome new restrictions on mail voting, including ID requirements to apply for, and return, mail ballots. Voters will also encounter new limits on drop boxes.
  • Wisconsin voters may face significant new barriers to returning mail ballots this election – though pending litigation could change the rules before the 2024 election.

Meanwhile, election officials in key swing states must implement recent changes to voting laws and other challenges that threaten the 2024 election.

  • New laws have opened the door to frivolous mass challenges to voter registrations that could overwhelm understaffed offices in Georgia. Pending legislation in North Carolina could result in election officials there seeing similar mass challenges to mail ballots.
  • High turnover in local election offices in several key states, including Arizona, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, following an exodus of career professionals, means these offices will be understaffed or staffed with inexperienced administrators.
  • Conspiracy theories and election challenges took a particularly strong hold on Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania in 2020 and 2022. That recent experience suggests bad-faith actors may attempt similar activity again in 2024.

The full report includes in-depth state-by-state analysis of what could be highly-consequential changes in all 8 swing states as defined: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Read on to learn more.

We will continue monitoring developments and trends in state election legislation throughout the remainder of the year. As always, you can follow along in real-time with our twice-daily updated State Voting Rights Tracker, which tracks election legislation and current election law in all 50 states.

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