Democracy Wrapped: Five Key Takeaways from Voting and Election Policy in 2023

Democracy Maps
6 min readDec 21, 2023

What did 2023 bring for the voting and election landscape in the United States? Here at MAP, we track these issue areas in real time via the Democracy Maps, which highlight the incredible difference in access to voting and the independence and integrity of elections across the states.

This play-by-play of 2023’s major democracy trends details five key policy areas. We also look to the year ahead and forecast new developments that will further shape our democracy in 2024 — for better or worse.

Changes in Voting and Election Policies

Voter ID Requirements for Voting In-Person

Several states passed new laws that request or require photo identification to vote in person. These unnecessarily strict identification requirements or procedures create barriers for eligible voters without an ID.

Two states passed laws regarding whether student ID can be used as a form of identification at the polls.

  • March 2023: Idaho enacted a law eliminating the use of student IDs as acceptable forms of identification, creating an additional barrier for in-person voting.
  • July 2023: Michigan, which requests photo ID to cast a ballot, passed a law expanding the list of acceptable identity documents to include student IDs.

Restoration of Voting Rights

In March 2023, governors in Minnesota and New Mexico both signed legislation that codified the automatic restoration of voting rights for formerly incarcerated people upon release, joining 21 other states with similar laws in place.

States vary widely on when and how formerly incarcerated people can have their voting rights restored. To date, more than one in five eligible voters (27%) live in states where voting rights are lost until full completion of a sentence, including probation and parole. Eleven states have even more restrictive laws, where additional action is required post-sentence to restore voting rights.

Access to Ballot Boxes

States take a variety of policy approaches to ballot drop boxes, which are a secure option for returning absentee or mail ballots. To date, 12 states unfairly ban the use of ballot boxes.

  • January 2023: Ohio implemented restrictions on ballot drop boxes, with only a single drop box now allowed per county in the state.
  • February 2023: South Dakota enacted a law banning the use of ballot drop boxes.
  • March 2023: Omnibus legislation in New Mexico codified the accessible use of ballot drop boxes statewide.
  • October 2023: Republican legislators in North Carolina overrode the governor’s veto of a ballot drop box ban.

Voter Roll Data and Membership in ERIC

Voter registration lists — or voter rolls — are an important component of a well-functioning election administration system, and maintaining them through acceptable methods (e.g., removing voters who have moved or died) helps keep them accurate.

In many states, laws initiate the removal of voters from registrations lists (also known as voter roll purging) based solely on how frequently they vote. This ongoing, erroneous practice has resulted in the removal of thousands of otherwise eligible voters in 2023:

  • Ohio: In early 2023, nearly 11,000 otherwise eligible voters were removed.
  • Wisconsin: More than 100,000 otherwise eligible voters’ records were removed in August 2023.
  • Georgia: In September 2023, over 189,000 otherwise eligible voters were removed from voter rolls.
  • North Carolina: In 2023 over 260,000 otherwise eligible voters were removed from voter rolls.

State participation in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) offers another approach to voter roll maintenance, helping states modernize their voter registration systems and increase efficiency and security. While ERIC remains the best tool available to maintain accurate voter lists, in 2023, a concerning trend in voter roll maintenance has emerged: eight states have withdrawn from the organization. Most recently, Texas left ERIC, joining 25 other states that are not currently members.

Membership in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), via Democracy Maps.

Updates to Automatic Voter Registration Policies

More than half of the voting-eligible population (53%) lives in states that have automatic voter registration (AVR) systems, which register eligible voters through their interactions with state agencies, like a DMV.

There are two types of AVR: front-end AVR, which gives eligible voters the ability to opt-out of registration at the time of their agency interaction, and back-end AVR, which automatically registers eligible voters via a state agency and provides an opportunity to opt-out at a later time.

2023 saw several legislative changes affecting both forms of AVR in several states:

  • Minnesota enacted back-end AVR.
  • Nevada and Washington updated their systems from front-end to back-end AVR during this year’s legislative session.
  • Pennsylvania implemented front-end AVR administratively.

Additionally, Delaware and New York finished the implementation process for their AVR systems, making them effective for eligible voters this year.

Forecasting the Year Ahead

State legislatures continue to enact laws that impact democracy — from pro-voter developments like expanding access to the ballot and registration to laws that undermine election integrity and voter independence. For example, new voter ID laws and ballot box policies have both enabled and restricted voter access, and while updates to AVR have improved voter registration systems, departures from ERIC present serious implications for the election security and voter access.

This year’s policy trends have already had consequences — like in Ohio, due to its newly enacted voter ID law. Election officials reported that voters’ provisional ballots were rejected because of having expired IDs in August’s special elections. In the year to come, we anticipate additional developments that further threaten access to the ballot and voter protections. These include:

  • The remaining effective provisions of the Voting Rights Act are under threat after a recent decision by the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which limited the ability to challenge gerrymandering and the electoral maps that disadvantage voters of color. This leaves the VRA vulnerable to further higher court decisions in 2024.
  • Given the concerning exodus of its former member states, ERIC alternatives are now being implemented. One-to-one data sharing efforts have been initiated to update voter roll records, as well as the introduction of EagleAI, a database that relies on public data and is operated by “inexperienced activists with unreliable data.” Adopting these substitutes presents concerning implications for election security in the new year, especially as we move towards next year’s presidential election.
  • Leading up to next November, we anticipate a new wave of election denialism and election disinformation across the nation. MAP’s National Election Denial Risk Index, a composite of several voting and election policies, points to six states that are at high risk and 33 states at a moderate risk for election denialism. This represents more than two in three Americans — i.e., 157 million voters — living in states at risk, and additionally, nearly three-quarters (72%) of voting-eligible Americans live in states without a law explicitly protecting against election disinformation.

As developments unfold in the new year, MAP will continue to track our core issue areas in real time via the Democracy Maps. Our maps offer a comprehensive reference for more than 45 aspects of state election and voting laws, making it easy to see the states that are ensuring democracy thrives and the states that are falling woefully short.



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.