The Myth of the Lazy Nonvoter
If history is any indicator, only around 40 percent of eligible voters will vote in the midterm elections. Most people assume that voter turnout remains this low because Americans are apathetic and simply don’t want to vote. But it’s more likely that most Americans do want to vote, and one of the root causes of low turnout is this country’s framework of restrictive voting laws.
The United States is unique in allowing state laws to largely govern voting in federal elections. Ever since key federal protections were dismantled by the Supreme Court in 2013 – including portions of the Voting Rights Act, which required some states and localities with a history of discrimination to obtain federal permission before changing voting procedures — state lawmakers have had more latitude than ever to enact laws affecting whether, how and when one can vote in a federal election.
In the last 20 years, many states have made significant strides in changing these restrictive laws. Four states — Louisiana, Maryland, New York and Rhode Island — recently expanded voting rights to people on probation or parole.
“The trend is in a positive direction,” said Danielle Lang, senior legal counsel, voting rights and redistricting at the Campaign Legal Center, which created a tool to guide felony convicts through the complicated state laws that determine whether they can vote. “States are typically not passing more restrictive felony disenfranchisement laws.”
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