The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, May 10

by Liz Avore

May 10, 2021

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Today is Monday, May 10. We’re tracking 2,144 voting bills that have been introduced so far this session. There are 404 anti-voter bills and 1,256 pro-voter bills, with the remainder being either neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: The Texas House advanced an omnibus anti-voter bill on Friday. In Wisconsin, legislation that would restrict absentee ballot return opportunities moved out of committee. And Kansas enacted two anti-voter bills over the governor’s veto. Meanwhile in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the state’s own anti-voter omnibus bill Thursday morning — and voting rights groups promptly sued.

The Good News: New York enacted landmark legislation restoring voting eligibility to citizens returning home from prison. An early voting resolution and a bill to reform prison gerrymandering each passed a chamber in Connecticut. The Texas House adopted a number of positive amendments to the omnibus anti-voter bill, including a provision creating a cure process.

Looking Forward: This week, the Connecticut House is expected to pass a no-excuse absentee voting resolution, and a litany of anti-voter bills are on the move in Wisconsin and Texas. We are also watching Ohio following the introduction of a massive voting bill last week.

Here are the details:

New York enacts historic legislation allowing people returning home from prison to vote. On Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law allowing citizens with felony convictions to vote as long as they are not currently incarcerated. Washington State passed similar legislation earlier this session, and once these laws take effect these states will join 20 others that allow people on community supervision to vote.

Florida governor signs bill limiting vote by mail and drop boxes. In a ceremony closed to all media outlets except Fox News, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Florida Senate omnibus bill (S.B. 90) on May 6. Voting rights groups promptly sued. Among its impacts, the bill will force voters to apply to vote by mail more frequently; require specific ID numbers to apply for a mail ballot; limit drop box availability; and prohibit distribution of food and water to people waiting in line to vote. Although the bill is unquestionably anti-voter, voting rights advocates were successful in persuading the legislature to remove some of the worst provisions prior to passage, including the complete elimination of drop boxes and cancellation of existing ballot requests.

Texas moves forward on its anti-voter legislation following late night improvements. Following rigorous questioning and a contentious point of order, the Texas House took up the anti-voter omnibus at 3 a.m. on Friday morning. At that time, 18 mostly positive amendments were added to the bill without objection. The amendments reduced the bill’s original criminal penalties, added online ballot tracking, and created a cure process so that voters can fix errors on their mail ballots. The newly amended S.B. 7 passed the House and will now likely move to a conference committee to reconcile the differences in the versions that passed each chamber.

Wisconsin bills to restrict ballot return opportunities passes out of committee; votes on more anti-mail voting bills expected next week. The Wisconsin Senate Committee on Elections approved multiple bills last week, including one that would limit voter options for returning completed absentee ballots. A floor vote is scheduled tomorrow. The committee is expected to vote on several more anti-voting bills this week, including legislation that would make it more difficult for voters to vote early and by mail, particularly voters with disabilities.

Connecticut moves closer to in-person early voting, reforming prison gerrymandering. Connecticut’s House passed a resolution last week for a constitutional amendment to allow in-person early voting. The Connecticut Senate passed a bill that would reform prison gerrymandering by drawing legislative districts using the previous addresses of incarcerated citizens rather than their prison address. This week, we expect the House to pass a resolution for a constitutional amendment that would allow for no-excuse absentee voting.

Ohio drops massive voting bill. Ohio’s anticipated voting bill was introduced on Thursday, clocking in at 174 pages. While it includes a couple of pro-voter provisions that would allow for online absentee requests and create an automated voter registration system, the bill also includes a number of anti-voter provisions, including eliminating a day of early voting, significantly limiting the availability of drop boxes, imposing more restrictive ID requirements on absentee voters, and shortening the absentee request period.  Two anti-voter bills pass via veto override in Kansas. Two bills, one that restricts the ability to send mail ballot applications to voters and one that prohibits private election funding, were passed in Kansas over the governor’s veto.

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

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