Primary season kicks into high gear this month, with 17 states holding elections in June and more to come throughout the summer. It starts what will likely be a contentious campaign, the first federal cycle since the presidency was determined by just 80,000 votes in three states. Americans need no reminding that every vote counts.
But voters might face several hurdles when they go to register or cast a ballot. The past decade has seen a number of laws that restrict the right to vote. This year in particular, voters are wary. Russian interference in the 2016 balloting has Americans questioning the integrity of our election system. And out-of-control gerrymandered legislative maps lock some voters into districts where they don’t have much of a choice about who they send to Washington.
Here are the three major threats to the ballot this fall — and what’s being done to protect the vote:
Restrictive Voting Laws
This fall, voters in at least eight states will face more stringent voting laws than they did in the last federal election cycle in 2016. And voters in 23 states will face tougher restrictions than they did in 2010 (the last major wave election). The most common impediments are strict voter ID laws (read the research on why these laws make it harder for some citizens to vote), but they also include additional burdens on registration and cutbacks on early voting and absentee voting — this year, voters in Iowa will have just 29 early voting days, down from 40 prior to that state’s midterm primaries.
If these laws remain in effect, they have the potential to make it harder for millions of Americans to vote. Even with an expected wave of enthusiasm this November, a growing body of research shows these laws reduce participation, particularly among communities of color, low-income voters, young people, older citizens, and people with disabilities.
So what can be done?
Besides passing laws that expand voting access, judicial orders are…