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AP-NORC poll: Majority in US back easier voter registration

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FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2020, file photo, some of the last voters wait in line to cast their ballots after the line was cut off at 7 p.m., local time, outside the gymnasium at Reed High School in Sparks, Nev. Everyone in line when the polls closed at 7 p.m. was allowed to vote in Washoe County, where registration is split evenly between the two major parties in the northern part of the state. A new survey measuring the popularity of major pieces of sweeping legislation in Congress finds solid support from Americans for Democrats proposals to overhaul voting in the U.S. The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found about half of Americans support expanding access to early and mail voting, while about 3 in 10 opposed the ideas and the rest had no opinion. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner, File)

WASHINGTON – Democrats’ proposals to overhaul voting in the U.S. won solid -- although not overwhelming -- support from Americans in a new survey measuring the popularity of major pieces of the sweeping legislation in Congress.

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found about half of Americans support expanding access to early and mail voting, while about 3 in 10 opposed the ideas and the rest had no opinion. Automatic voter registration was the most popular Democratic proposal in the survey, endorsed by 60% of Americans.

Generally, the partisan divide was stark, as many Republicans opposed measures that make is easier to register and vote and most Democrats embraced them. About three-quarters of Democrats supported no-excuse voting by mail, for example, but about 6 in 10 Republicans were opposed.

There was one striking exception: Nearly three-quarters of all Americans — including majorities of both parties — said they support laws requiring voters to present photo identification, even as the Democratic proposal would ease those laws.

The sizable number of Americans who expressed no opinion on many of the measures suggests both parties have some room to try to sway public opinion as they ramp up efforts to pressure the Senate to act on the bill.

“When you ask questions that are focused specifically on voting, you can’t help but step into what is a super-charged debate that is still resonating coming off the 2020 election,” said U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, one of the lead sponsors of the Democrats’ bill. “There continues to be a lot of misinformation around what it means to have accurate and fair elections and voting in this country.”

The 2020 presidential election was dominated by coronavirus pandemic-related voting changes and a flood of misinformation and false claims of voter fraud. There was no widespread election fraud, and those claims were rejected by Republican and Democratic election officials in state after state, by U.S. cybersecurity officials and by courts up to the U.S. Supreme Court. And then-Attorney General William Barr said there was no evidence of fraud that could change the election outcome.

Still, now there is a collective sense of urgency to change how elections are run. But each side is taking a dramatically different path, with state Republicans looking to tighten rules and Democrats in Congress seeking national voting standards.