Democracy and Access to Voting

Freedom & End Discrimination


Democracy and Access to Voting

Everyone, regardless of what we look like, should have a voice in our elections, policies, and government rulemaking. America is stronger when more people vote, and when people can cast ballots conveniently with confidence their ballot will be counted.

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Voter with the Rural Utah Project

In states across the nation today, legislatures are passing laws that intentionally make it harder to vote, which particularly impact Black voters and other voters of color, young voters, and rural voters. These antidemocratic tactics divide and distract communities while making it harder to pass laws that a majority of Americans favor. Laws that restrict voting have no place in a democracy and must be blocked at every opportunity.

At the same time, legislators in states around the country have also used many strategies to make voting accessible, including for rural voters. Rural voters face particular challenges: they are more likely to live far from their local elections office and their polling place, they are more likely to have limited internet access, and they may not have an official post office address. Rural communities also often struggle for resources and to hire election and poll workers.

To address these issues, first and foremost, state legislators can expand, rather than restrict, the freedom to vote. Policymakers can ensure that all Americans can cast ballots in accessible and safe elections to make the promise of our democracy real for all.

Other specific strategies to make voting more accessible are working well across the nation. Same-day registration allows voters to register or update their records up to and including on Election Day. Automatic voter registration allows voters to register and keep their records updated during regular transactions with government agencies like the Department of Motor Vehicles. Voters in 21 states and Washington, DC, have access to these common-sense provisions. Prepaid postage for mail ballots, accessible drop boxes, and ballot tracking can help rural voters cast ballots conveniently and ensure their ballot is counted. Expanded mail voting, coupled with accessible in-person voting options like countywide vote centers, can give rural voters the flexibility to cast a ballot on their own schedule and in a variety of ways.

Legislators can address funding needs for local election offices by connecting with election administrators in rural communities, assessing resource needs, and striving to meet these needs in the state budget.

Policy Priorities

  1. Federal: Pass the For the People Act, a bill that would expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and implement other anti-corruption measures to fortify our democracy.

  2. Federal: The federal government should make significant investments in the safety and security of our elections. State and local governments currently shoulder the burden of keeping our elections safe, yet many, particularly rural governments, lack the necessary resources to take on the emerging threats to our electoral process.

  3. Federal: Rural voters are more likely to live far from their local elections office and their polling place. Pass the Vote at Home Act and allow all American voters to vote at home, provide pre-paid envelopes to return ballots, and automatically register citizens to vote at DMVs.

  4. Federal: Rural areas are home to many prisons and formerly incarcerated people. Laws preventing the formerly incarcerated from voting — holdovers from the Jim Crow era — disproportionately impact people of color and unjustly strip people of their most fundamental democratic rights. Restore the voting rights of formerly incarcerated people by passing the Democracy Restoration Act.

  5. State: Expand safe and accessible elections and the freedom to vote for all

  6. State: Establish same day registration and automatic voter registration

  7. State: Expand vote by mail and provide convenient ballot return options

  8. State: Provide for convenient and accessible in-person voting locations
  9. State: Fund local rural election offices

State Examples

  • Minnesota (MN Statutes § 201.061) is one state with same-day registration; Colorado (2019 CO SB 235) is one with automatic voter registration.

  • In eight states, all registered voters automatically receive ballots in the mail and can return them by drop box, mail, or in person at a polling location. Oregon (OR Rev. Stat. 254.470) is one of these.

  • Washington (WA Code § 29A.40.091) provides prepaid postage for mail ballots.

  • Colorado (C.R.S. 1-5-102.9) requires accessible vote centers for in-person voting, in addition to expansive mail voting options.