The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, May 3

by Liz Avore

May 3, 2021

This is the eighth edition of The Markup, VRL’s insider legislative update. We’re grateful to our loyal readers like you. Will you help get this update into more hands by sharing it now?

If you’d like to get these weekly updates straight to your inbox going forward, please subscribe now.

Today is Monday, May 3. We’re tracking 2,118 voting bills that have been introduced so far this session. There are 398 anti-voter bills and 1,242 pro-voter bills, with the remainder being either neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

Bad news from last week: Florida sent an anti-voter bill restricting mail voting to the governor’s desk, and Arkansas enacted a bill creating the earliest ballot return deadline in the country.

Good news from last week: The final language in that Florida bill is a lot better than when it started, and Indiana enacted a bill adding tribal IDs to the list of acceptable forms of voter ID.

Looking forward: Today, we expect the Connecticut House to pass a resolution for a state constitutional amendment that would allow early voting. This week, we expect to see a wide-ranging elections bill introduced in Ohio and Governor Ron DeSantis sign the Florida bill. We’re watching to see what happens in Texas, where the two anti-voter omnibus packages now have matching language, and a number of anti-voter stand-alone bills are on the move.

Here are the details:

Florida legislature sends bill restricting vote by mail to the governor’s desk — but with many of the worst provisions removed. There was a flurry of activity on the Florida leadership bill S.B. 90 this week — the anti-voter package got a lot worse and then a lot better, and now it is on the governor’s desk. The final version of the bill requires voters to apply for absentee ballots twice as frequently, forces them to provide a specific ID number when applying for a ballot, and severely restricts the availability of drop boxes by requiring that they be staffed and only open during early voting hours at early voting sites. Many bad provisions — including a total prohibition on drop boxes, a requirement that voters show an ID to use a drop box, and cancellation of all mail ballot applications on file — did not make it into the final bill language. We expect the governor to sign S.B. 90 this week.

Connecticut early voting resolution to be heard today.  A resolution proposing a Connecticut constitutional amendment that would allow for early voting is expected to be heard in — and pass — the state House today. Connecticut is currently one of only eight states that does not provide any in-person early voting because the Connecticut constitution prohibits it.

Arkansas establishes earliest ballot return deadline in the country. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a bill that moves the deadline for returning a completed absentee ballot from Election Day to the Friday before Election Day — creating the earliest ballot return deadline in the country. He also signed a number of bills targeted at election officials this week — one threatening harsher criminal penalties, one shifting authority over who handles complaints about election crimes, and one prohibiting election officials from accepting private donations to assist in election administration.

Bills shifting election authority continue to advance in many states. Arkansas isn’t the only state politicizing the election process. Thirty-five states have introduced legislation shifting authority over elections this year. Bills have been enacted in Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Arkansas, and Kentucky — and legislation is currently on the governor’s desk in Florida, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

Indiana will now accept tribal IDs as a form of voter ID. Governor Eric Holcomb signed a bill last week that adds tribal IDs to the list of acceptable forms of voter ID in Indiana.

In a surprise move, Texas House guts Senate omnibus bill and moves it out of committee. Last Thursday, without prior notice and without any public testimony, the House Elections Committee replaced the language in the Senate anti-voter package S.B. 7 (a bill that attempted to cut early voting and remove local authority over elections) with the language in the House anti-voter package H.B. 6 (a bill creating new felony-level criminal penalties for people who provide assistance to voters with disabilities as well as for election officials and poll workers). The committee then voted to move it forward on party lines. Now both anti-voter omnibus elections bills in Texas have identical language and either could be heard on the House floor this week. At the same time, both chambers continue to move bills that contain standalone versions of provisions proposed by the omnibus bills — seven of those bills have already passed out of the first chamber.

Wide-ranging voting bill expected to drop this week in Ohio. We anticipate an omnibus bill to be introduced in Ohio this week. While the text is not yet public, Representative Bill Seitz put out a request for co-sponsors which included a bill summary. The bill is expected to include pro-voter policies, such as automated voter registration and a new online absentee request system. It is also likely to include anti-voter policies, such as placing new restrictions on the use of secure drop boxes, eliminating the final day of early voting, shortening the time frame for voters to request an absentee ballot, and imposing new ID requirements for some absentee voters.

This update is powered by VRL’s State Voting Rights Tracker.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Markup to get our updates straight to your inbox.