Election Year Trends: Voting and Democracy Policies to Watch in 2024

Democracy Maps
7 min readMar 27, 2024

Across the country, state legislative sessions are underway. Typically, in an election year, state legislatures are less likely to enact new voting legislation; however, there are still many potential policy changes that lawmakers can implement that would directly impact this year’s elections.

MAP is analyzing the trends in election administration and voting policies that have emerged in statehouses in 2024. Our policy team will continue to follow these trends and more in real time through our Democracy Maps, which track more than 50 policies related to elections and voting, and provide state-by-state details for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

This brief includes MAP’s analysis of the following policy areas:

Bans on Guns in Polling Places

According to the Small Arms Survey, there are approximately 120 guns for every 100 people in the United States. Guns at polling places, even if not used to commit violence, can be used to intimidate voters and election officials. Combined with the marked rise in threats to election officials and violent rhetoric around elections, the proliferation of firearms in our country represents an increasing danger for everyone participating in the voting process.

There is currently no federal law prohibiting the possession of firearms in polling places. This policy decision is left to the states: currently, only 12 states and D.C. have clear prohibitions preventing the possession of firearms in polling places.

In the 2024 legislative session, state lawmakers have started to pay more attention to this important issue. As of March 21, according to MAP’s analysis, at least 25 bills have been introduced across the country to prohibit the possession of firearms in polling places.

New Mexico was the first state to pass a ban on guns in polling places this year, and to date, similar legislation has also been adopted by one chamber of the legislature in Hawaii and Michigan. In Virginia, however, Governor Youngkin vetoed a bill that would have banned firearms near election-related locations.

More states should enact prohibitions against the possession of firearms in polling places before the 2024 election. Doing so would keep our democratic process safe and secure for voters and election officials alike.

Protecting Election Officials Against Threats and Intimidation

Since the 2020 election cycle, state and local election officials have been the targets of an alarming increase in violent threats and harassment. Much of this rise can be linked to the proliferation of unfounded claims of voter fraud and rigged elections.

As a result, 14 states now have laws explicitly intended to protect election officials from threats and intimidation. These additional protections may include increased criminal penalties for threatening or harassing officials, interfering with officials in the performance of their duties, or allowing officials to have their personal information exempted from public records. All of these laws have been put in place since the 2020 election.

The 2024 legislative session has seen this trend continue its momentum across the states. As of March 21, at least 57 bills have been introduced to enact new protections for election officials, across 27 states & D.C. Legislation to protect election officials also represents a rare bipartisan trend in election and voting legislation; for instance, earlier this month Indiana became the first state to enact such a law in 2024, followed by Wisconsin last week. So far, similar legislation has also been adopted by one chamber of the legislature in Virginia and Washington.

While laws are often already in place that can help protect election officials, MAP continues tracking the trend of new state laws explicitly intended to protect election officials in response to the recent increase in threats and harassment.

Voting Rights for Formerly Incarcerated People

The United States has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the industrialized world. Each state has laws that delineate who is eligible to vote, and almost all states restrict voting for those who are currently incarcerated for a felony offense — although a few states allow citizens to vote while incarcerated. The reality is that disenfranchising people who have been charged with certain crimes is another form of voter suppression, especially with the extremely high incarceration rates.

States’ policies diverge significantly on the question of when and how formerly incarcerated people can have their voting rights restored. In some states, certain felony convictions result in losing voting rights for life. Other states require certain steps to restore voting rights, such as full payment of fines and fees related to criminal convictions; however, to do so, individuals often rely on systems that are very difficult to navigate and financial barriers may prevent an otherwise eligible voter from regaining their voting rights.

Currently, 23 states have laws in place which automatically restore voting rights to eligible citizens upon release from incarceration. This policy trend has been growing in the past year, with Minnesota and New Mexico both implementing automatic restoration in 2023.

Democracy Map: Voting Rights for Formerly Incarcerated People (via MAP)

Yet, 11 states, representing nearly 1 in 5 voters, still have draconian rights restoration systems in which formerly incarcerated individuals must meet additional requirements, such as the payment of fines and court costs, in order to regain their right to vote. These systems, in which otherwise eligible voters can be denied their basic rights due to a lack of economic means, are unjust and fly in the face of a strong and representative democracy.

As of March 21, 2024, at least 95 bills have been introduced in states across the country related to the rights of formerly incarcerated voters. The majority of these bills seek to improve the rights restoration process, and positive bills have passed at least one legislative chamber in California, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Virginia.

The Sentencing Project estimates that there are over 4.6 million Americans disenfranchised due to felony convictions, representing over 2 percent of the total voting age population.

Fortunately, positive reforms to restore voting rights last year in Minnesota and New Mexico are estimated to have re-enfranchised over 65,000 voters in those two states alone. Continued efforts by states in this policy area have the potential to significantly impact elections in 2024 and beyond.

Voter List Maintenance

Voter registration lists — or voter rolls — are an important component of a well-functioning election administration system. All states must maintain their voter rolls to keep them accurate, and there are acceptable methods for doing so, like removing voters who have moved or died.

However, a number of states have put in place list maintenance practices that erroneously remove otherwise eligible voters from the rolls for improper reasons such as inactivity. This kind of voter roll purge has the potential to swing election results. For context, the margin of victory in some of these states in the 2020 presidential election far exceeds the number of voters who were purged this year due to infrequent voting.

Read more below about the landscape of laws that initiate removal from registration lists based on infrequent voting.

Currently, 20 states have list maintenance policies in place that initiate removal from registration lists based solely on a voter’s inactivity. Thirty-five percent (35%) of all eligible voters live in states where these aggressive tactics result in the unwarranted removal of hundreds of thousands of otherwise eligible voters each year.

Democracy Map: Voter Roll Purges Based Solely on Infrequent Voting (via MAP)

In a more recent trend, conservative states have also begun to withdraw from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a nonpartisan organization created to assist states in maintaining their voter registration lists. These withdrawals were the result of a right-wing misinformation campaign, despite ERIC being considered the best tool available to maintain accurate lists and prevent potential voter fraud. Due to these withdrawals, almost 60% of all eligible voters now live in the 26 states that are not members of ERIC.

Voter list maintenance continues to be a priority for legislators in 2024. As of March 21, almost 90 bills have been introduced across the states related to voter list maintenance. Already this year, the governor in Virginia vetoed legislation that would have required the state to rejoin ERIC following its withdrawal in 2023. Indiana has also enacted restrictive legislation that will make it easier to conduct voter purges by utilizing questionable data sources to remove suspected noncitizens from voter rolls. Similar legislation to the law passed in Indiana is awaiting the governor’s signature in West Virginia.

Legislation impacting voter list maintenance is poised to have a critical impact on the 2024 elections. According to research by Demos, more than 19 million voters were removed from state voter rolls between 2020 and 2022, the equivalent of 8.5% of the total number of registered voters at the time of the 2022 election. These purges continued in 2023, where over 550,000 voters were removed from the rolls in just four states: Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin. In those states and other battleground states critical to the 2024 election, suppressive efforts to purge voter rolls could swing election results.

As legislative sessions progress throughout this election 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 50 aspects of state election and voting laws, making it easy to compare the states committed to ensuring democracy thrives to those 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.