YEAR IN REVIEW
State of Democracy: 2022 in Review
As the year draws to a close, Movement Advancement Project is looking back at which states have seen the most change in 2022 in our Democracy Tally, for better or for worse, and policy trends in voting and elections. The Democracy Maps track 45 laws and policies related to elections and voting; together these make up each state’s Democracy Tally.
How the State of Democracy Changed in the States in 2022
Four states saw significant changes in their Democracy Tally scores, which track voter registration, voting in person, election security, representation and participation, voting by mail, and independence and integrity of elections.
See the full list of laws and policies we track, grouped by category.
Michigan had the largest change in its Democracy Tally in 2022.
Michigan’s tally score improved by five points overall. Michigan is now the 5th highest state in MAP’s democracy ranking.
▸▸ See our full democracy profile for Michigan and our State of Democracy Spotlight on Michigan.
A ballot measure passed by voters in November 2022 brought a significant number of pro-democracy changes to the state. These changes include: nine days of traditional in-person early voting (the state had previously only offered in-person absentee voting) and improvements to mail voting policies such as codifying the use of ballot drop boxes, requiring a process so that voters can correct errors with their mail ballots, and providing prepaid ballot postage.
The Michigan ballot measure also included important policies to protect democracy that are not yet factored into our tally, including requirements which better ensure post-election audits are conducted in a nonpartisan manner, and removing the ability of canvassing boards to make partisan decisions involving certifying election results. The ballot measure passed with a 60% majority.
Idaho improved by three points in its Democracy Tally in 2022.
The most significant policy implemented in Idaho this year was requiring the use of truly independent post-election audits. Idaho was previously one of only 11 states that did not require post-election audits.
With the adoption of these best practice audits in Idaho, over 90% of eligible voters now live in states that routinely conduct nonpartisan post-election audits to ensure integrity and accuracy in election results.
▸▸ See our full democracy profile for Idaho.
Missouri had the largest drop in its Democracy Tally in 2022.
Missouri dropped three points overall in our Democracy Tally score. This decline was driven by the passage of an omnibus voting bill in the state that implemented a number of negative policies that limit voting rights and democracy.
The new policies that harm democracy in Missouri include a strict photo ID requirement, bans on ballot drop boxes and private funding of election offices. The bill also allows the state legislature to interfere in election administration. The overall impact of this legislation was negative; however, it also implements early in-person voting in the state so that voters will now be able to cast their ballot as early as two weeks before election day.
▸▸ See our full democracy profile for Missouri.
Massachusetts saw an increase in its Democracy Tally in 2022.
The state of Massachusetts improved its Democracy Tally by two points in 2022. This improvement was propelled by the passage of an omnibus bill focused on mail voting, which implemented no-excuse absentee voting in the state as well as other positive policies such as an online absentee ballot request option.
With the passage of this law, Massachusetts became the 35th state to allow no-excuse absentee voting. Almost 70% of eligible voters now live in states with no-excuse absentee voting.
▸▸ See our full democracy profile for Massachusetts.
2022 Election and Voting Policy Trends
Earlier this year MAP released a report, “The 10 Policy Trends Transforming Voting and Elections in America,” examining legislative proposals across the states that sought to make policy changes in three main areas: registration and eligibility, casting a vote, and vote counting and certification.
Read More: The 10 Policy Trends Transforming Voting and Elections in America
Some of these trends have now been implemented into law across the states, most notably involving ballot drop boxes, bans on private funding of election offices, efficient ballot processing, early voting, and legislative interference in election administration.
Bans on Private Grant Funding of Election Offices
At the beginning of 2022, only 11 states banned private grant funding of election offices — but by the end of the year that number doubled to 22. Almost half of voters now live in states that ban private funding for elections.
Democracy Maps | Bans on Private Funding of Election Offices
This map depicts which states currently ban private funding of election offices and which states do not.
These bans resulted from efforts during the 2020 election cycle, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when philanthropists recognized a need for additional funding for election offices. These grants were available to any election jurisdiction and all funds were required to be used exclusively for the public purpose of planning and operationalizing safe and secure election administration. Despite the success of the 2020 election, in the two years since, Republican lawmakers across the states have seized on conspiracies to ban such funding, while also ignoring the need for consistent funding of election administration that led to the need for the grants in the first place.
Ballot Drop Boxes
Another area of attention for many state lawmakers was ballot drop boxes. Once a noncontroversial option for voters to return their mail ballots, drop boxes took on additional importance during the 2020 election, as a record number of voters chose to vote by mail.
States take a variety of policy approaches to ballot drop boxes, with some states requiring they be accessible statewide, while other states limit, restrict, or even ban the option
Democracy Maps | Ballot Drop Box Policies and Availability
States have a variety of policy approaches to ballot drop boxes — some require they be accessible statewide while other states limit, restrict, or ban the option.
Despite the incredible turnout in 2020, some federal and state elected officials have sought to misrepresent drop boxes as contributing to voter fraud, allegations which have repeatedly been proven false. This led to a movement in Republican-led states to limit the availability of drop boxes or ban them entirely.
In 2021, Florida, Georgia and Iowa all implemented restrictions on drop boxes. In 2022 that trend continued, with three states banning drop boxes entirely: Louisiana, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
Ten states now ban the use of drop boxes entirely, and more than 20% of eligible voters now live in states that ban drop boxes. In addition, Ohio is set to pass limits on drop boxes during the lame duck session before the end of the year.
▸▸ See MAP’s policy spotlight, The Battle Over Ballot Drop Boxes.
At the beginning of this year, seven states did not offer early voting at all, and an additional five states offered less than seven days. The national landscape has greatly improved over the course of 2022: only four states remain that do not offer early voting and another four that offer less than seven days.
As we close out the year, 90% of voters now live in states that offer more than seven days of early in-person voting.
State Legislature Interference in Election Administration
Following the 2020 election, partisan actors sought to undermine the will of the voters and pursue a strategy to overturn election results in several states. In the two years since, some Republican state legislatures enacted laws that increase the danger of election subversion by giving themselves more power to interfere in election administration.
Democracy Maps | State Legislature Interference in Elections
This map depicts which states allow state legislatures to seize power over election administrations and which states do not.
At the beginning of this year, five states had such laws, which usually operate to remove power over elections from the state executive branch and allow the legislature to interfere in election litigation or other aspects of election administration. In 2022, an additional four states enacted such laws: Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
As a result, almost 20% of eligible voters now live in states where the legislature has seized power over election administration. This trend increases the potential danger of election denial and subversion heading into the 2024 election.
Processing of Absentee and Mail Ballots
The final notable trend in state legislatures this year focused on the processing of absentee and mail ballots. The 2020 election saw a large increase in voters choosing to utilize absentee or mail ballots rather than traditional in-person voting. This increase created logistical issues for election jurisdictions in the ballot counting process, which in turn caused delayed results in some states.
One important way that states avoid unnecessary and overly long delays in reporting election results is by allowing mail ballots to be processed prior to Election Day. This processing does not involve tallying or releasing results ahead of Election Day, but rather taking steps such as verifying voter signatures and opening ballot envelopes so that counting can later be done more quickly.
Democracy Maps | Efficient Absentee and Mail Ballot Processing
Ballot pre-processing involves verifying voter signatures and opening ballot envelopes so that counting can be later done more quickly.
At the beginning of this year, 11 states still did not allow any pre-processing of ballots; as of now that number is down to eight. Almost 85% of eligible voters now live in states that allow mail ballot pre-processing, better allowing states to efficiently prepare election results after the polls close.
In the year ahead, MAP will continue tracking dozens of laws and policies about voting, democracy, and elections through our Democracy Maps.