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New state voting rules and restrictions are making the simple act of casting a ballot more complicated in much of the country. Just since the 2020 election, many states have shortened the timeframe for requesting absentee ballots, limited the use of drop boxes or introduced new ID requirements. Even in states that have moved to make voting easier, new and still-shifting rules and ongoing redistricting efforts threaten to confuse voters and dampen turnout in the 2022 midterms. That’s especially true for older voters, who vote in greater numbers than any other age group — people age 50-plus account for more than half of registered voters in the U.S. — but who often face obstacles in getting to the polls.
To help confront this challenge, AARP.org has published guides to voting in this year’s primaries and general elections in every state, plus for Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Our reporters will update these guides (in English and Spanish) through Election Day, as voting rules continue to change and as more redistricting plans take effect.
Our guides showcase 2022 voting trends that present story opportunities for editors and reporters:
- At least three-dozen states have changed their voting rules since the 2020 election. Many, including Texas, Georgia and Florida, have adopted new restrictions — like shorter windows for requesting mail-in ballots or limiting the use of ballot drop-boxes. Other states, including California, Nevada and Indiana, are moving in the other direction, expanding early voting, mail-in voting and taking other steps to increase ballot access. As Texas’ first-in-the-nation March 1 primary showed, these new rules can create enough confusion for thousands of ballots to be rejected as invalid.
- Many states don’t fit the stereotype that voting is easier in blue states, harder in red ones. For instance absentee voting is available to virtually all registered voters in red states like Idaho, Kansas and Oklahoma. In North Dakota, you don’t even have to register to vote; everyone 18 and older can cast a ballot with a valid ID. In deep blue Connecticut, meanwhile, you must be ill, disabled or traveling to vote in absentee — and there’s no-early voting, all of which makes voting harder. Next door, in blue Rhode Island, you’ll need your mail-in ballot notarized or signed by two witnesses — no easy feat for many older voters.
- In the “making voting easier” department, more states are opening or expanding voting centers. First introduced in Colorado in 2003, voting centers make it easier to cast a ballot because you can generally vote at any state or county center you like, as opposed to being confined to your local precinct. They can also make elections cheaper to administer, requiring fewer locations and machines and less staff. The U.S. Virgin Islands recently introduced voting centers, while Washington, D.C. and a handful of states are expanding their number of voting centers this year.
- More states are introducing ranked-choice voting, changing the nature of campaigning and voting and potentially making elections more competitive. Alaska will use ranked-choice voting for the first time this year in its primaries and general election, on the heels of New York City introducing ranked-choice voting in last year’s mayoral primaries. Maine introduced rank-choice voting in 2018 and efforts are afoot to introduce ranked-choice voting in Florida, Tennessee, Washington, Vermont and Missouri.
With redistricting plans still taking shape in many states, legal challenges threatening to upend redistricting plans already adopted and certain state legislatures weighing more voting changes, we’ll continue updating our voting guides through Election Day. New and unexpected trends are bound to emerge.