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Brennan Center responds to PolitiFact report about 28 voting laws

To the editors:

In PolitiFact’s July 21 factcheck of statistics the president used in a July 13 speech, the characterization of the source of those statistics — the Brennan Center for Justice’s Voting Laws Roundup: May 2021 — is misleading. That document provides much of the nuance that your article treats as missing from our findings.

In our May roundup, we identified 28 laws enacted in the U.S. so far in 2021 as “restrictive.” The article calls that figure “somewhat exaggerated,” arguing that it contains laws with varying degrees of impact on voting, some being “significant and noticeable” and others being “more limited or speculative.” The Brennan Center includes such context in our voting laws roundups, including the most recent (July 2021) and the May 2021 roundup, which discusses the breadth of omnibus laws like those in Georgia as compared to bills that address individual policies.

We also question the article’s characterization of the restrictive impact of some of these laws as “speculative.” Our determination that a given provision will make voting harder comes from our years of study and research by others in the field.

For example, Utah’s HB 12 on voter roll purges is in the “more speculative” section of the article with the assertion that its impact on voters is “unclear.” The law mandates that election officials rely on the Social Security Administration’s death data to purge voters, a list that has been proven to contain errors (i.e., including people who are still alive). Moreover, research shows that purges risk erroneous removals when based on a specified list and mandated within a short timeframe that doesn’t permit further investigation, notice to the voter, or any local official discretion — all of which are features of Utah’s new law.

The impact of Arizona’s SB 1003 — which sets a shorter time period for correcting or “curing” mail ballots with missing signatures — is also labeled “more speculative.” However, SB 1003 particularly burdens Navajo voters, who had reached a settlement with the state in 2019 to allow five business days after Election Day to correct mismatched and missing signatures on mail ballots.

Finally, the article puts the impact of HB 1715 (Act 736) in Arkansas in the “more speculative” category as well. This law limits the signature to which an absentee ballot signature can be compared to one signature only: the signature on the person’s voter registration application, rather than any signature in the voter’s registration records. With this limit, absentee ballot signatures will be compared to extremely old signatures, without accounting for the way that signatures change with age or onset of disability, increasing the risk that ballots properly cast by eligible voters will be rejected.

Alexandra Ringe
Director of Media and Strategy
Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law