Movement Advancement Project (MAP)

Democracy Maps Updates for May 2023

Democracy Maps
6 min readMay 12, 2023
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MAP’s newest project, the Democracy Maps, tracks more than 40 laws and policies related to elections and voting. Our maps are updated in real time as legislatures across the country pass laws that impact voting, elections, and our democracy.

These are the Democracy Maps updates as of May 11, 2023.

▸▸ State Policy Updates

Automatic Voter Registration

In Minnesota, omnibus legislation established automatic voter registration (AVR) and a number of other pro-voter reforms, including pre-registration for young voters and permanent absentee voter list availability, which are described below.

Approximately half (49%) of eligible voters now live in one of the 23 states (+ D.C.) that offer some form of AVR.

Democracy Map displaying state laws regarding front-end and back-end automatic voter registration (AVR).
Democracy Map: Automatic Voter Registration (Movement Advancement Project)

Minnesota’s new law implements back-end AVR, which works by automatically registering voters when they interact with certain state agencies, like a DMV. Once a voter is automatically registered, they are given an opportunity to opt-out at a later time.

MAP’s report, Automatic Voter Registration Best Practices in the States details state approaches to AVR and examines how differences in implementation of AVR can significantly impact election security and voter turnout. For example, back-end AVR significantly increases both voter registration and voter turnout.

Protections for Election Officials

Oklahoma enacted a law intended to protect election officials from threats by creating a misdemeanor offense that applies to threats or intimidation of election officials at both the state and county level.

Oklahoma is the 9th state to implement this kind of law.

Learn more in MAP’s issue brief, Protecting the Election Officials Who Protect Our Democracy.

Voter ID Requirements for In-Person Voting

A North Carolina Supreme Court ruling reinstated a photo voter ID law for in-person voting in the state. The law had previously been blocked on grounds of racial discrimination.

North Carolina is one of 13 states that request an ID to cast a ballot. In 11 other states, photo ID is required to cast a ballot, or additional steps must be taken if voters do not have the required ID.

Our scoring gives negative points to states that have unnecessarily strict identification requirements or procedures in place that create barriers for eligible voters who may not be able to obtain a specific form of required ID.

Voting Rights for Formerly Incarcerated People

Following a North Carolina Supreme Court decision, formerly incarcerated voters are now not able to vote until they have completed probation or parole.

North Carolina is one of 14 states where the right to vote is not automatically restored after someone is released from prison, and they must instead also complete their parole or probation. An 11 additional states require people to take even further action to restore their voting rights.

Democracy Map depicting the landscape of state laws on voting rights for formerly incarcerated people.
Democracy Map: Voting Rights for Formerly Incarcerated People (Movement Advancement Project)

Opportunity for Voters to Correct Errors on Their Ballot (“Ballot and Signature Curing”)

In Maryland, a new law requires that voters be contacted and offered the opportunity to correct potential signature errors with their absentee ballots. This process, sometimes referred to as “ballot curing,” allows voters to have their ballots counted once their identity is confirmed.

Maryland is now the 28th state with such a policy, and the majority (75%) of voters now live in states that require ballot curing.

Additional Requirements to Return Absentee Ballots

Virginia repealed a state policy that required voters to obtain the signature of a legal witness in order to have their absentee ballot counted.

Previously, these additional steps unnecessarily imposed barriers for voters to be able to cast their ballots. With the repeal of Virginia’s policy, now only five states require voters to obtain witness signatures to return their absentee ballots.

Democracy Map depicting current states that have additional requirements to return absentee ballots.
Democracy Map: Additional Requirements to Return Absentee Ballots (Movement Advancement Project)

Bans on Private Grant Funding of Election Offices

Montana enacted a ban on private grant funding for election offices.

This follows a trend that began after the 2020 election, when philanthropists donated funds to over 2,500 local election offices to support the safe conduct of elections during the COVID pandemic.

Since 2020, 23 states have established bans on these types of donations, while continuing to ignore the gaps in election funding — which led to the need for the grants in the first place.

Pre-Registration for Young Voters

Minnesota now allows 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote.

The state had previously only allowed pre-registration for young voters who would turn 18 in time for the next upcoming election.

Pre-registration increases turnout and engagement among young voters, who are historically the least likely to exercise their right to vote.

Permanent Absentee Voter List Availability

Minnesota established a permanent absentee voter list, which allows voters to sign up to automatically receive absentee ballots each election cycle, which increases voter engagement.

Minnesota is now the 24th state to offer a permanent absentee list. In four states, however, it is illegal to automatically distribute absentee ballots or voter registration applications.

Democracy Map displaying the range of state laws related to permantee absentee voter lists and their availability.
Democracy Map: Permanent Absentee Voter List Availability (Movement Advancement Project)

▸▸ Additional Litigation Updates

North Carolina Supreme Court Decisions

In a series of controversial decisions issued in April, the North Carolina Supreme Court sanctioned extreme partisan gerrymandering, reinstated a voter ID law and rolled back rights for formerly incarcerated voters.

Two of the decisions were issued in cases that had already been heard by the court last year, but since those decisions were issued the partisan majority of the court flipped from Democrat to Republican control.

The decision in the partisan gerrymandering case may also impact the Moore v. Harper case that is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, which implicates the so called “Independent State Legislature” theory. The case before SCOTUS originated from the litigation in North Carolina, and the controversial decision by the state court to rehear the case may now render the Moore v. Harper litigation essentially moot before a ruling is issued.

▸▸ More from Democracy Maps

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Democracy Maps

Democracy Maps tracks more than 50 laws and policies on elections and voting. Project of Movement Advancement Project, an independent, nonprofit think tank.