The Natrona County Fairgrounds operating as a polling place on Wyoming’s primary election day on Aug. 18, 2020. (Dustin Bleizeffer/ WyoFile)

Colorado’s elections are a bipartisan success story, so when Major League baseball responded to Georgia’s new voting restrictions by moving the All-Star Game to Denver, it couldn’t have made a better choice.

More than 76% of eligible Coloradoans voted in 2020 — second only to Minnesota in statewide turnout. Every registered voter gets a mail-in ballot weeks ahead of Election Day, there are convenient and safe drop boxes, and in-person voting is also available. People seem to love the choices.

Yet other Rocky Mountain states seem locked in competition to pass the most brazenly anti-democratic election laws. 

Montana recently passed bills to eliminate Election Day voter registration and impose new restrictions on absentee voting. In Wyoming, where a bill requiring state citizens to present specific forms of photo identification when casting ballots sailed through the Legislature, many lawmakers seek to abolish voting by mail entirely. 

Hold my beer, says Arizona. Following Democrats’ success in federal races last fall, GOP legislators unleashed a barrage of bills restricting voting, of which seven were recently advancing through the legislature. Those measures include requiring absentee voters to get their ballots notarized and banning practices that don’t even exist in Arizona, such as automatic voter registration and Election Day registration.

And in Idaho, GOP state House Majority Leader Mike Moyle said, “Voting shouldn’t be easy,” when introducing a bill to make it a felony to collect and return multiple ballots on behalf of others.

While the most extreme measures may fail, still harmful bills remain, showing the need for federal protection of political rights. U.S. election overseers called November’s contests the most secure in history, yet “stolen election” claims still get pushed to justify rules changes. The first three months of 2021 saw legislators across 47 states introduce more than 360 restrictive bills encompassing dozens of voter suppression tactics.

Obstacles to voting impact people of color most heavily, and in the Interior West, Native Americans are the primary casualty. The 65,000-plus votes cast in the Arizona portion of Navajo Nation overwhelmingly favored President Joe Biden in 2020 and easily exceeded his statewide victory margin. In Tohono O’odham Nation, bordering Mexico, about 90% of ballots went for Biden.

It’s no accident that indigenous voters would be most inconvenienced or deterred by the four Arizona bills that would create new obstacles for absentee voters. The sheer size of the Navajo Reservation — 27,000 square miles spanning three states — makes in-person voting difficult.

Multiple studies have found that mail-in voting has been politically neutral. And despite being dragged down in federal elections last year by a historically unpopular candidate atop the ticket, Republicans dominated state elections and made a net gain in Congressional seats.

Meanwhile, more than 500 state bills were introduced this year to improve voter protections and strengthen procedures, including every West Coast and Plains state but Kansas. Kentucky just proved it possible to pass a bipartisan law that both improves election security and protects voters.

But stopping disenfranchisement of vulnerable groups requires federal reform. For decades, our Voting Rights Act required states with histories of voter suppression to get federal approval for new voting laws, ensuring they had no discriminatory purpose or effect. In practice, the law protected citizens in every state. 

In 2006, an overwhelming Congressional majority (and a unanimous Senate) extended the Voting Rights Act for 25 years. But in 2013, Chief Justice John Roberts — who worked to restrict ballot access prior to his judicial career — joined the 5-4 Supreme Court majority to gut key protections of the law.

The ruling enabled states to resume voter suppression tactics, which Texas did within hours.

In response, the House of Representatives recently passed the “For the People Act,” potentially the most important voting rights advance since the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Now in the Senate, the bill would expand and secure ballot access, increase election security and reduce the power of money over elections. 

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With not a single Republican supporting the House bill, however, the bill is doomed unless the filibuster is ended. Even if the Act passed, one more task remains: passing a constitutional Amendment that embeds an affirmative right to vote and ensures our votes count equally.

For as long as our ability to vote depends on the state we live in, and the political party controlling it, voting is merely a vulnerable privilege, not a right.

This piece was originally published by Writers on the Range, a nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively conversation about Western issues, and reprinted here with permission.

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  1. As an election judge, precinct captain, caucus member I think this Bozeman, Mt. author is not examining the reality of the election process. A voter ID is not an onerous requirement. Colorado has more stringent laws than Georgia, I worked there..

    thanks JON

    1. Colorado only has more stringent requirements if you cherry-pick. Colorado does have a shorter early voting period. This is because almost everyone votes by mail, making in-person early voting largely unnecessary. Every registered voter gets a ballot mailed to them, and they can either put it in the envelope provided or drop it off at the numerous secure drop boxes. Georgia also has drop boxes; however, they are only in government buildings that are closed after hours. Colorado also does require voter id. However, they have a long list of acceptable forms of id to ensure that everyone who is a resident can vote. Colorado’s system is incredibly easy and accessible while also remaining just as secure as other states. Also, keep in mind that Georgia also has a huge problem of purging the voter rolls that Colorado does not. If you want to learn more about the differences, here is a good place to start.
      Voter id laws sound like a simple requirement. For many in this area, it is simple to get an id. However, in many areas, especially the South, there is a long history of requiring id’s then closing the DMV’s in minority areas. If you are for voter id, then you should also be for making it easier for everyone to get a free government-issued id.

  2. This sounds like a typical far-left blog site. There is a distinct difference between attempting to dis-enfranchise voters and making sure that voters are who they say they are. I have been an election judge for over 2 decades and find that real elections, with real voters are the will of the people. NOT illegal voters with an agenda.

    1. ” I have been an election judge for over 2 decades and find that real elections, with real voters are the will of the people. NOT illegal voters with an agenda.”

      Just how much experience have you had with “…illegal voters with an agenda.”? How many cases of such have you reported to prosecutors? How many “unreal voters” have you encountered and had prosecuted?

      1. Exactly. These publications want to shove their agenda down our throats. If you are for voter ID, that is racist, suppression etc etc. All a bunch of rubbish. That seems to be what this publication is publishing. Wanting an honest election is not extreme, racist or anything else. It is what we should have. The only people fighting this want to continue to cheat to.maintain their poqer.

        1. No, you are wrong. I didn’t cheat, and no one else did. The trumpkins are not being honest in saying election fraud is a problem.

          The only problem in this scenario is the willful ignorance and gullibility of those people who continue on with the “stolen” election narrative.

        2. Have you some evidence–not hearsay or blarney–of election fraud?

          It appears to me that you hit the wrong reply button…and just what is a poqer?

        3. Actually, what constitutes “shoving their agenda down our throats” is conservative politicians lying about voter fraud, then using the power of government to force incoherent, irrational, and arbitrary rules and barriers on everybody with the intention of making it extra difficult for specific groups of ELIGIBLE voters to cast their votes, in the hopes that doing so gives them a political advantage.

          Writing an article criticizing such actions on the internet for people to voluntarily choose to read (or not), on the other hand, is not such an instance of “shoving an agenda down throats”.

          I must say, it is also very odd seeing the “don’t tread on me” crowd constantly ending up on the side advocating for the government to absolutely tread on people they don’t like….

    2. The election fraud claim was all based on lies. There was no fraud. There was no “steal”. Chrump lost, please live in reality.

  3. As a Poll Worker for so many election cycles in three different states I find then creatio and passing of these new voter laws to be securing the vote only for some and not all the eligible voters. Fraud is very difficult to perpetrate and most get caught and face the just fruit of their illicit deeds. Here in Wyoming as in the thousands of polling sites all across this nation and territories where United States citizens are allowed vote we demonstrate the bedrock that cements this democratically elected constitutional republic is alive and well, until 2016 when a candidate said if he did not win he would not except the results. How anti constitutional is that? Then again he did this in 2020 and tried through various means ton nullify millions of votes with no proof. This big lie tried to disenfranchised millions of voters and now all across this country state legislatures are carrying on the big lie by making even more difficult to vote. Even here in Wyoming this poisonous venom of lies and purposeful misinformation was brought forth in a set of new laws in the Equality State to make it harder to vote. I guess these supposed patriots of the legislature do not understand that what is good for the goose is just as good for the gander. With the lopsidedness in Wyoming these laws will be more detrimental for their constituents then the other side. As a poll worker, especially in a pandemic, that as poll workers, many who are elderly and have health conditions still carried out our oath that we take will conduct fair and honest elections was a slap in the face! It makes me more determined as a minority representative to make sure anyone who comes to my polling station gets to vote as usual, legally! As I done before and will continue to do!

  4. Republicans have tried, with great success in the more backward areas of the country, to disenfranchise voters, particularly since the Civil Rights bills of the 1960s were enacted. So, it’s not surprising that Wyoming state government follows suit. Apparently Wyoming voters agree, since it is they who vote the democracy hating clowns into office, time after time, often by a 2:1 majority.