The right to vote has taken a lot of hits in recent years. Since the 2010 election, 23 states have adopted new restrictions on voting, such as stricter voter ID laws, cutbacks to early voting, and aggressive purging of voter rolls. This week, the Supreme Court upheld a voter ID law in North Dakota that could prevent thousands of Native Americans from voting, and the Associated Press reported that Georgia is blocking 53,000 voter registration applications, 70 percent of which are from African Americans.
But despite widespread voter suppression efforts, 2018 could actually be a huge year for expanding voting rights. Initiatives on the ballot in seven states in next month’s midterm elections would make it easier for people to vote and harder for states to gerrymander political districts.
The biggest initiative is in Florida, which hasn’t always been a paragon of respectability when it comes to running smooth and fair elections. Voters there appear to be on the verge of restoring voting rights to 1.4 million ex-felons.
Florida is one of only four states that prevent ex-felons from voting even after they’ve paid their debt to society. This felon disenfranchisement law, which dates back to the Jim Crow era, blocks 10 percent of Floridians from voting, including one in five African Americans. But a ballot initiative called Amendment 4 would repeal this law. That would lead to the largest increase in new voters in the state since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In three other states—Maryland, Michigan, and Nevada—there are ballot initiatives to make registering to vote easier, through reforms like Election Day registration and automatic voter registration. In four states—Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, and Utah—voters will also decide whether to crack down on gerrymandering by drawing political districts in a nonpartisan way.
As I explain in this video for Mother Jones, these initiatives will go a long way toward determining what the country’s voting laws will look like in 2020—and could help decide who the next president will be.