The ways new voting laws could help or hurt democracy in America

Protesters gather at a state capitol
A group opposing new voting legislation protests outside the House Chamber at the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas on May 6.
Eric Gay | AP file

Many legislatures around the country — and the U.S. Congress — are considering making some big changes in election laws. Some will make it more difficult to vote, and some will change who counts the votes and how the votes are counted.

A panel of experts was virtually convened at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs Friday to look at the ways our election laws could change — or should change — and what it means for our democracy.

Richard Hasen is a law and political science professor at the University of California, Irvine. Michael Morley is a law professor at Florida State University. The event was moderated by Tammy Patrick of the elections program at Democracy Fund.

The United States has a completely decentralized election system, which is very unusual compared to the rest of the world. Hasen says “in the U.S., we’re running 10,000 simultaneous elections for president.” He adds, “an election is only a strong as its weakest components.”

This situation results in much more litigation and more partisan involvement. If people don’t believe that elections are conducted fairly, Hasen says he worries not just about voter suppression, but about “the danger of election subversion.”

Richard Hasen is the author of “Election Meltdown” and “The Voting Wars.” His forthcoming book is titled, “Cheap Speech.”

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