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Today is Monday, May 24. We’re tracking 2,173 voting bills that have been introduced so far this session. There are 410 anti-voter bills and 1,266 pro-voter bills, with the remainder being either neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.
The Bad News: In Texas, the legislature sent a bill to the governor that threatens election officials with punishments similar to manslaughter and robbery.
The Good News: The Delaware legislature passed a bill creating automatic voter registration, and in Vermont, the legislature passed a bill establishing vote-by-mail, ensuring all voters receive a ballot in the mail for all general elections. Alabama bucked the trend, and enacted legislation downgrading the severity of voting crimes. And it’s not all bad in the Lone Star State: A bill in Texas that creates online ballot tracking passed the Senate and heads to the House for reconciliation.
Looking Forward: With just seven days left in the Texas legislative session and roughly 30 elections bills pending that have passed at least one chamber’s committee, we expect to see a lot of action this week.We also expect the Connecticut Senate to hold a hearing on omnibus pro-voter legislation, as well as the constitutional amendments to establish early voting and no-excuse absentee voting.
Here are the details:
Vermont poised to be the newest vote-by-mail state. On Tuesday, the Vermont Senate unanimously passed and sent to the governor a bill establishing vote-by-mail for general elections, ensuring that all voters receive a ballot in the mail that they can fill out and return via mail (postage prepaid) or drop box. If a voter does not wish to vote by mail ballot, they can still vote in person. Once the governor signs the bill, Vermont will join Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington state and become the sixth state that sends mail ballots to all voters in general elections
Automatic voter registration on the brink of becoming law in Delaware. Last Tuesday, the Delaware legislature passed a bill creating automatic voter registration. It now goes to the governor’s desk. If he signs it, the bill will make Delaware the 20th state to enact automatic voter registration.
Texas Senate passes online tracking for mail ballots; felony election crime bill ready for governor’s signature. On Wednesday, the Texas Senate passed a pro-voter bill that creates online ballot tracking, enabling voters to track the status of their mail ballot (and application for mail ballot). The bill now returns to the House for reconciliation. Meanwhile, the legislature sent a bill to the governor that creates a second degree felony for election officials who knowingly count invalid votes or don’t count valid votes. Offenses with a similar level of punishment in Texas include manslaughter and robbery. Texas still has roughly 30 elections bills pending that have passed at least one chamber’s committee, with one week to go in session.
Alabama lowers election crime penalties. Alabama enacted a bill on Monday last week which bucks a multi-state trend of increasing criminal penalties for election crimes by downgrading a first conviction for multiple or fraudulent voting from a Class C felony to a Class A misdemeanor. Importantly, the bill also clarifies that the crime only applies if a voter knows that they were not entitled to vote.
Connecticut Senate expected to hear elections bills this week. This week, we’re expecting the Connecticut Senate to hear SB 5, an omnibus bill that expands voter eligibility, facilitates automatic voter registration, and makes absentee voting easier, among other provisions. Additionally, we expect to see the Senate hold hearings on the constitutional amendments to establish early voting and no-excuse absentee voting.
This update is powered by VRL’s State Voting Rights Tracker: tracker.votingrightslab.org