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Voters Approve Major Changes To Redistricting And Other Voting Laws

North Carolina will join Virginia and 17 other states that require voters to show a photo ID to vote. A sign notifies voters that a photo ID is required at the Clarke County Schools office polling location in Berryville, Va., on Nov. 6, 2018.
Bill Clark
CQ-Roll Call,Inc./Getty Images
North Carolina will join Virginia and 17 other states that require voters to show a photo ID to vote. A sign notifies voters that a photo ID is required at the Clarke County Schools office polling location in Berryville, Va., on Nov. 6, 2018.

Across the country, states are on track to overwhelmingly change the way elections are run.

In the ballot measures that passed Tuesday, voters in at least three states took the power to determine political boundaries away from state legislatures, while a similar proposition in Utah was too close to call. Voter registration deadlines could become a thing of the past in three states that are making it easier to take part in elections.

Several states approved initiatives adopting voter ID laws that are aimed at curbing voter fraud (which has proved close to nonexistent despite claims to the contrary).

In Florida, voters approved a measure that automatically restores voting rights to most felons who have completed their sentences.

Colorado amendments Y and Z

Colorado voters overwhelming supported the two proposals, which will allow independent commissions to draw electoral districts for legislators and members of Congress after the 2020 census. As Colorado Public Radio explains, the measures each needed 55 percent of votes to pass but garnered more than 70 percent of the vote.

Florida Amendment 4

In passing Amendment 4, a Florida electorate that elected a Republican governor and appears to be on track to elect a Republican senator also voted to extend voting rights for people with felony criminal records.

Currently, Florida is one of the strictest states when it comes to restoring felons' right to vote, according to NPR member station WLRN. Felons who have completed their sentence, up to 1.5 million of them in the state, do not automatically get back the right to vote.

But this amendment looks to change that, automatically restoring the voting rights of felons, except those convicted of murder or sex crimes.

Maryland Question 2

Voters in Maryland voiced their support by 67-33 percent to allow residents to register to vote on Election Day.

Maryland will become the 18th state to allow same-day registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"We're telling people that we value their vote and their participation," said Maryland Del. Kirill Reznik, D-Montgomery, who began pushing for same-day registration a decade ago, to The Washington Post. "Some states are making efforts to close the ballot box. ... In Maryland, I'm proud of everything we've done to open it."

Michigan proposals 2 and 3

Michigan also passed a law significantly changing the way the state's political lines are drawn for congressional and state legislative districts.

The amendment will take the power to draw those lines out of the hands of state lawmakers, as the Detroit Free Press explains, and put it into the hands of an independent redistricting commission made up of four Republicans, four Democrats and five people who identify with neither party.

The state also approved a wide-ranging amendment that will allow people to register to vote on Election Day and will institute automatic voter registration. It will also allow voters to request an absentee ballot for any reason.

Missouri Amendment 1

Another effort meant to change the redistricting process, this Missouri amendment passed with more than 60 percent of the vote. The "Clean Missouri" proposal will eliminate the current system of drawing state legislative districts using a bipartisan committee.

Instead, a new, nonpartisan state demographer will propose maps that a bipartisan commission will then vote on.

North Carolina Photo ID Amendment

North Carolina voters across the state will have to show photo ID to vote, in accordance with a measure that passed Tuesday 55 percent to 44 percent.

Legislators will be responsible for determining the type of photo ID that will qualify.

Currently, 17 other states require photo ID, and North Carolina specifically has had an interesting history with the policy.

Michael Tomsic of member station WFAE wrotetwo years ago about the lengthy battle over the state's law, which was ostensibly meant to combat voter fraud:

"That fight began in 2013, when the state made cuts to early voting, created a photo ID requirement and eliminated same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting and preregistration of high school students.

"More than half of all voters there use early voting, and African-Americans do so at higher rates than whites. African-Americans also tend to overwhelmingly vote for Democrats."

Those provisions of the law were struck down in July 2016 by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court refused to revive it last year.

North Dakota Measure 2

This amendment doesn't trigger any change to the voting process in the state, but it does change the North Dakota Constitution to emphasize that voters must be citizens of the U.S. to cast ballots.

The amendment, which passed with more than 65 percent of the vote, will amend the constitution to state that "only a citizen" of the U.S. can vote in federal, state and local elections. Currently, the constitution reads that "every citizen" of the U.S. can vote, according to Ballotpedia.

Nevada Question 5

This ballot measure is another automatic voter registration measure. With 17 percent of ballots reporting, the measure led 53 percent to 47 percent.

Wayne Thorley, the deputy secretary of state for elections, explained to NPR member station Reno Public Radio that an automatic registration system can improve timeliness and accuracy of voter rolls.

"When there is a human entering data into a system off of a paper voter registration form, there could be data entry errors," he said.

Utah Proposition 4

This Utah proposal, which is currently tied 50 percent to 50 percent with 73 percent of ballots reporting, would create an independent commission appointed by the governor and legislative commission to draw Utah's congressional and legislative boundaries after the census every 10 years.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Miles Parks is a reporter on NPR's Washington Desk. He covers voting and elections, and also reports on breaking news.