23 experts on the religious response to voter access bills

Election Day voter
An Iowa voter casts a ballot on Election Day 2020. (Photo courtesy of Phil Roeder via Creative Commons)

A flurry of controversial, Republican-backed legislation could limit voter access and change the way elections are administered across the U.S.

As they advocate for the current wave of restrictive measures, proponents, largely conservatives, are citing concern for the integrity of elections on the heels of false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election. But opponents, including Democrats, say the bills will disenfranchise voters, especially low-income Americans and people of color. 

The provisions include limiting voting by mail, ballot drop boxes and poll hours, as well as allowing less time to request absentee ballots, imposing strict voter ID requirements and banning mobile voting centers. Some bills already have become state laws. Given these state-level Republican efforts to restrict ballot access, legislation that would be a sweeping expansion of federal voting rights remains in political limbo in the face of almost unified Republican opposition.

Religious leaders have joined the fight. The Associated Press reports multifaith coalitions are leading voting rights activism in several states, and clergy have called on corporate leaders to condemn new laws restricting voters. 

The latest edition of ReligionLink features experts on voting laws and how the faithful are responding to legislative efforts expected to restrict access to the ballot box.

Background information

State legislation

Restrictive: During 2021 legislative sessions, lawmakers have introduced at least 389 bills in 48 states that would add restrictions to voting, according to a May report by the liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice. As of May 14, 22 have become law in 14 states and 61 bills are moving in 18 states, the report found.

Expansive: In 49 states, at least 880 bills would expand voter provisions, the report states. Twenty-eight have become law in 14 states; 115 bills are moving through 25 state legislatures, the report found.

Federal legislation

Democrats in Congress are struggling to push through two big voting bills. Federal campaign finance, elections and ethics laws would see sweeping changes under the For the People Act, which passed the House and was sent over to the Senate, The Washington Post reports. Provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act would be restored if the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act passes, according to the report. Democrats would need to overcome a probable Senate filibuster for them to be enacted.

Related research

Potential sources

  • Jessica Anderson

    Jessica Anderson is executive director of Heritage Action for America, a conservative grassroots advocacy group created by the think tank the Heritage Foundation. Noah Weinrich is the media contact.

  • Gilda Daniels

    Gilda Daniels is a law professor at the University of Baltimore and a voting rights expert. She wrote Uncounted: The Crisis of Voter Suppression in America. Daniels also served as a deputy chief in the voting section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division during the Clinton and Bush administrations. Her areas of interest also include religion and democracy.

  • Aunna Dennis

    Aunna Dennis is executive director of the Georgia chapter of Common Cause, which is an organization advocating for access to voting. David Vance is the media contact.

  • Joshua A. Douglas

    Joshua A. Douglas is a law professor and voting rights expert at the University of Kentucky. He wrote Vote for US: How to Take Back Our Elections and Change the Future of Voting.

  • Chad W. Dunn

    Chad W. Dunn is legal director and co-founder of the UCLA Voting Rights Project. His areas of expertise include voting rights and election law. Dunn co-authored the “Protecting Democracy: Implementing Equal and Safe Access to the Ballot Box During a Global Pandemic” report.

  • Anne Ellsworth

    Anne Ellsworth is a priest at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Parish in Tempe, Arizona. She has spoken out against voter suppression.

  • Aderson B. Francois

    Aderson B. Francois is a Georgetown University law professor and director of the Civil Rights Clinic and Voting Rights Institute. His scholarly interests include voting rights.

  • Cassandra Gould

    Cassandra Gould is the executive director of Missouri Faith Voices and an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The organization’s work includes advocating for voter protections and the For the People Act.

  • Andrew Hall

    Andrew Hall is co-director of the Democracy & Polarization Lab at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. He also is a political science professor and his areas of expertise include how to safely administer elections during the pandemic.

  • Gary Hamrick

    Gary Hamrick is the senior pastor of Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg, Virginia. He has spoken in support of updating voter laws.

  • Richard L. Hasen

    Richard L. Hasen is a law and political science professor at the University of California, Irvine. He is an expert on election law and wrote Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy.

  • Frederick Haynes III

    Frederick Haynes III is the senior pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas. He helped organize a conference for African American pastors concerned about the spread and use of the prosperity gospel, especially among African Americans.

    Contact: 972-228-5200.
  • Vincent Hutchings

    Vincent Hutchings is a political science professor at the University of Michigan. He is an expert on public opinion, elections, voting behavior and African American politics.

  • Kenneth R. Mayer

    Kenneth R. Mayer is a professor of American politics at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research interests include election administration and he is an election law expert.

  • Lydia Medwin

    Lydia Medwin is the director of congregational engagement and outreach of The Temple in Atlanta. Medwin is one of the authors of a March 2021 opinion piece called “Lawmakers shouldn’t pursue harmful curbs on voting.”

  • Bee Moorhead

    Bee Moorhead is executive director of the interfaith group Texas Impact, which is based in Austin, Texas, and promotes environmental conservation and opposes voter suppression measures.

  • Angela X. Ocampo

    Angela X. Ocampo is a political science professor at the University of Michigan. Her research looks at the political incorporation of racial, ethnic and religious minorities.

  • Nathaniel Persily

    Nathaniel Persily is a law professor at Stanford Law School. He is an expert in American election law, including voting rights, redistricting and election administration.

  • Elizabeth Reiner Platt

    Elizabeth Reiner Platt is director of the Law, Rights and Religion Project at Columbia Law School. She authored a March 2021 column in The Hill called “‘Religious liberty’ is coming for voting rights.”

  • Bradley A. Smith

    Bradley A. Smith is a law professor at Capital University Law School and former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. He is an expert on election law and campaign finance as well as a co-author of Voting Rights and Election Law.

  • Charles Stewart III

    Charles Stewart III is a political science professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His areas of expertise include congressional politics, elections and American political development.

  • Franita Tolson

    Franita Tolson is a law professor at the University of Southern California and an expert in constitutional law, voting rights, redistricting and election law.

  • Michael Waldman

    Michael Waldman is president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. Voting rights are among the issues the center addresses. Alexandra Ringe is the media contact.