The Fight Over Voting

With President Biden set to give a speech on voting rights in Philadelphia today and the Texas Legislature engulfed in chaos over a Republican effort to change election rules, we want to update you on the latest developments on the issue.

We’ll break down the major themes in the new state laws that Republicans are passing, as well as the responses from Democrats. The short version: Democratic leaders have no evident way to stop the Republican-backed laws — but the effect of those laws remains somewhat uncertain.

First, the news

In his Philadelphia speech, Biden will call efforts to limit ballot access “authoritarian and anti-American,” the White House said.

Some Democrats hope that presidential attention will persuade Congress to pass a voting-rights bill that outlaws the new Republican voting rules. But that’s unlikely. Congressional Republicans are almost uniformly opposed to ambitious voting-rights bills. And some Senate Democrats, including Joe Manchin, seem unwilling to change the filibuster, which would almost certainly be necessary to pass a bill.

So why is Biden giving a speech? In part, it helps him avoid criticism from progressive Democrats that he is ignoring the subject, as Michael Shear, a White House correspondent for The Times, told us.

But Biden also appears to be genuinely concerned about the issue, and the use of the presidential bully pulpit is one of the few options available to him. Over the long term, high-profile attention may increase the chances of federal legislation, Michael said.

In Texas, Democratic legislators fled the state yesterday to deny the Republican-controlled Legislature the quorum it needs to pass a restrictive voting bill. The move is likely only to delay the bill, not stop it from becoming law.

The G.O.P. laws

In 17 states, Republican lawmakers have recently enacted laws limiting ballot access, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Texas could become the 18th.

Republican officials have justified these new laws by saying that they want to crack down on voter fraud. But voter fraud is not a widespread problem, studies have found. Some of the very few cases have involved Republicans trying to vote more than once.

The substance of the laws makes their true intent clear: They are generally meant to help Republicans win more elections.

Increase partisan control

So far, at least 14 states have enacted laws that give partisan officials more control over election oversight — potentially allowing those politicians to overturn an election result, as Donald Trump urged state-level Republicans to do last year.

In Georgia, a Republican-controlled commission now has the power to remove local election officials, and has already removed some. Arkansas has empowered a state board to “take over and conduct elections” in a county if the G.O.P.-dominated legislature deems it is necessary. Arizona Republicans took away the Democratic secretary of state’s authority over election lawsuits and gave it to the Republican attorney general.

It’s not hard to imagine how Republican legislators could use some of these new rules to disqualify enough ballots to flip the result of a very close election — like, say, last year’s presidential election in Arizona or Georgia. The election-administration provisions, The Times’s Nate Cohn has written, are “the most insidious and serious threat to democracy” in the new bills.

Making voting harder

Many Republican politicians believe that they are less likely to win elections when voter turnout is high and have passed laws that generally make voting more difficult.

Some of the new laws restrict early voting: Iowa, for example, has shortened the early-voting period to 20 days from 29 and reduced poll hours on Election Day. Other states have made it harder to vote by mail: Florida has reduced the hours for ballot drop-off boxes and will also require voters to request a new mail ballot for each election.

Notably, some of the provisions are targeted at areas and groups that lean Democratic — like Black, Latino and younger voters. Georgia has lowered the number of drop boxes allowed for the metropolitan Atlanta area to an estimated 23 from 94 — while increasing drop boxes in some other parts of the state. Texas Republicans hope to ban drive-through voting and other measures that Harris County, a Democratic stronghold, adopted last year. Montana has ruled that student IDs are no longer a sufficient form of voter identification.

And the impact?

That’s not so easy to figure out. The laws certainly have the potential to accomplish their goal of reducing Democratic turnout more than Republican turnout. In closely divided states like Arizona, Florida or Georgia — or in a swing congressional district — even a small effect could determine an election.

But recent Republican efforts to hold down Democratic turnout stretch back to the Obama presidency, and so far they seem to have failed. “The Republican intent behind restrictive election laws may be nefarious, but the impact to date has been negligible,” Bill Scher wrote yesterday in RealClearPolitics. The restrictions evidently have not been big enough to keep people from voting, thanks in part to Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts.

The Republicans’ latest restrictions — and the ones that may follow, as in Texas — are more significant, however, and that creates uncertainty about their effect.

“Our democracy works best when we believe that everybody should have free, fair and accessible elections,” Myrna Pérez, a longtime elections expert, told us (before Biden nominated her to a federal judgeship). “And while it may turn out that their self-interested anti-voter efforts may backfire, make no mistake: Our democracy is worse just because they tried.”

The Supreme Court has taken a different view. Its Republican-appointed majority has repeatedly ruled that states have the right to restrict voting access.


The Virus

New Covid-19 cases in the U.S. are rising, driven mostly by the Delta variant. Here’s the data for every state.

U.S. officials told Pfizer they needed more data about potential booster shots. Experts say they aren’t necessary right now.

The F.D.A. says Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine can increase the risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurological condition, though the shot’s benefits still far outweigh the dangers. (Here’s more information.)


The U.S. will soon begin sending monthly checks to most American families, worth up to $300 per child.

Six months after the Jan. 6 attack, Capitol Police officers remain overworked and traumatized.

Unrest in Cuba and Haiti is forcing the White House to focus on Latin America and the Caribbean after limited attention from previous administrations.


Another heat wave in the West is fueling dozens of wildfires.

The largest U.S. fire, the Bootleg fire, prompted evacuations across southern Oregon and threatened California’s power grid.

Fire officials said its intensity was “unprecedented” this early in the season.

Other Big Stories

South Africa deployed its military to quell protests, which began over the imprisonment of a former president and have turned violent.

The E.P.A. has let fracking companies pump chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects into the ground, documents show.

The Trump Organization stripped its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, of roles at dozens of subsidiaries. Prosecutors indicted him alongside the company this month.


“I lost the N.Y.C. mayoral race, but women and minorities win with ranked-choice voting,” Maya Wiley argues in The Washington Post.

Jamelle Bouie on Donald Trump and the Capitol riot.


A medieval mystery: How did thousand-year-old French coins end up in a Polish cornfield?

Funk out: Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain” is turning 50. Here’s an audio guide to the album.

A Times classic: Try yoga for beginners.

Lives Lived: Edwin Edwards was Louisiana’s only four-term governor. He survived grand jury investigations and two corruption trials before going to prison in 2002 for racketeering. He died at 93.


Eid al-Adha’s evolving menu

Meat is central to Eid al-Adha. Traditionally, people across the Islamic world marked the holiday by sacrificing a lamb — or goat, cow or camel, depending on the region — at home and dividing it among friends, family and the needy. But celebrations are starting to look different as a younger generation adapts for changing seasons, laws and local tastes, Reem Kassis writes for The Times.

Breakfast was the highlight of Eid al-Adha for Areej Bazzari, who grew up in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The star of her family’s holiday table was offal — braised with garlic, fried with onion or mixed with eggs. Since her family moved to California, though, Eid al-Adha has meant a large get-together of family and friends, with nontraditional dishes like fattehs and shushbarak.

Nadia Hamila’s main dish for the holiday is mechoui, a slow-roasted leg of lamb. But side dishes will lean more toward salads and vegetables — lighter, summer fare. “I’m a strong believer that traditions have to adapt,” she said.

This Eid al-Adha is tentatively set for Tuesday, July 20. Read the rest of the story. — Sanam Yar, a Morning writer


What to Cook

Make sajiyeh, a Jordanian and Palestinian dish of bite-size pieces of meat. Plus: 20 simple sauces to transform any meal.

What to Read

“Landslide,” Michael Wolff’s third book about Trump’s presidency, focuses on the period between Election Day 2020 and Biden’s inauguration.

In Conversation With

The primatologist Jane Goodall still has hope for humans.

World Through a Lens

See how life is changing for the people of Tibet and the surrounding Himalayan regions.

Late Night

The hosts joked about Richard Branson’s spaceflight.

Now Time to Play

The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee were clunked and knuckled. Here’s today’s puzzle — or you can play online.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Garden statue with a pointy hat (five letters).

If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games.

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

P.S. A hidden haiku from an interview with Jeanie Buss, the Los Angeles Lakers owner and a standup comic: “These things happen and / you feel like you’re alone, but / people can relate.”

Here’s today’s print front page.

“The Daily” is about Allen Weisselberg. “Popcast” is about live music’s return.

Lalena Fisher, Claire Moses, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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