The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, June 28

by Liz Avore

June 28, 2021

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Today is Monday, June 28.

We’re tracking 2,250 voting bills that have been introduced so far this session. There are 436 anti-voter bills and 1,289 pro-voter bills, with the remainder being either neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: A number of anti-voter bills are on the move. The Michigan House passed a pair of voter ID bills sent over from the Senate, and also introduced a new bill that would create a state audit board to scrutinize the results of the 2020 election. Anti-voter legislation is heading to governors’ desks in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s budget bill containing provisions limiting gubernatorial and local election official authority passed the Senate. And the Arizona Senate passed a bill that would threaten election officials with a new felony crime.

The Good News: Connecticut’s Governor Ned Lamont signed a bill restoring voting rights to formerly incarcerated citizens, among other pro-voter provisions. The Michigan House also passed three pro-voter bills last week, including two that expand training for elections officials and challengers. Colorado’s Governor Jared Polis enacted a bill last week that would make numerous improvements to their vote-by-mail system.

Looking Forward: In Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, we expect each respective governor to veto recently passed anti-voter legislation. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has called for a special legislative session to convene on July 8. While the issues for the special session have not been formally announced, we expect elections to be central to the agenda.

Here are the details:

Connecticut restores voting rights to formerly incarcerated citizens. Governor Ned Lamont signed S.B. 1202 into law last week, a state budget bill with a provision to restore voting rights to 4,000 citizens in Connecticut who have served their time in prison. The provision will restore voting eligibility to any person with a felony conviction as soon as they are no longer incarcerated and have returned to the community, regardless of their parole status or fines and fees they may owe. The bill also makes permanent the drop box procedures put in place for the 2020 election and facilitates automatic voter registration at the DMV.

Colorado improves its vote-by-mail system. Last week, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed S.B. 250 into law. The bill upgrades the state’s vote-by-mail system in numerous ways, including clarifying that voters in line to use a drop box when polls close may remain in line to return their ballots, improving voting access for incarcerated voters, and narrowing election crimes.

Pennsylvania legislature passes anti-voter omnibus bill. Pennsylvania’s H.B. 1300 passed the House and Senate last week. Among its many anti-voter provisions, the bill restricts the use of drop boxes, reduces the time period for registration and requesting mail ballots, and establishes more stringent voter ID requirements. The bill would also shift election authority from bipartisan election administrators to partisan actors, and it would create new election crimes with penalties on par with those for murder and rape. The bill now heads to Governor Tom Wolf, who has indicated that he will veto it.

Wisconsin legislature sends anti-voter bills to the Governor; introduces new legislation to restrict drop boxes. The Wisconsin Assembly passed five anti-voter bills last week. Some of the provisions in these bills include new felony and misdemeanor offenses for clerks who attempt to help a voter cure errors with their ballot and a new felony offense for residential care facilities employees. One of the bills also prohibits clerks from mailing absentee ballot applications to all voters. Governor Tony Evers has indicated he will veto any bills that make it harder to vote in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Senate also introduced a new bill last week to eliminate drop boxes outside of clerk’s offices.

Michigan House advances strict voter ID bills and introduces legislation to audit 2020 election results; simultaneously advances some pro-voter bills. There was a lot of action in the Michigan House last week. It passed a pair of anti-voter voter ID bills sent over from the Senate. Under current Michigan law, voters who are unable to present photo ID may still cast a regular ballot if they sign an affidavit. As amended and passed by the House, the legislation would eliminate the affidavit option and require that voters provide photo ID and that poll workers do a signature match for each voter. No state in the country requires both a signature match and copy of photo ID to vote in person on Election Day. The House also introduced a bill last week to audit the results of the 2020 election despite the conclusions of a bipartisan committee finding no evidence of widespread fraud.

There were, however, some bright spots out of Michigan last week as the House advanced bills to require training for elections officials on signature matching, to require training for election challengers, and to allow clerks to send out absentee ballot applications that permit voters to request absentee ballots for the entire year – not just a single election.

North Carolina’s budget bill passes the Senate. North Carolina’s budget bill contains provisions limiting the authority of election officials to settle election lawsuits and limiting the governor’s emergency authority. With four Democrats voting in favor, this bill potentially has enough votes to override a veto by Governor Roy Cooper. It now heads to the House.

Arizona’s budget bill goes to the governor; Senate tries (again) to threaten election officials with felony prosecution. Arizona’s budget bill passed out of the legislature last week. Among its elections-related provisions are a shift in authority away from the secretary of state (currently a Democrat) to the attorney general (a Republican). It also authorizes the attorney general to remove registered voters from the rolls. 

Meanwhile, the Arizona Senate passed S.B. 1837 last week, a bill that would make it a felony to send an absentee ballot to a voter who has not requested one. Although an application is required by existing law, during the 2020 presidential primary the Maricopa County recorder attempted to mail ballots to voters to help them avoid exposure to COVID-19. The attorney general sued and the recorder was prevented from sending the ballots. The Arizona legislature previously passed a bill, H.B. 2792, with identical substance to this one, but it was vetoed by Governor Doug Ducey, along with many other bills. S.B. 1837 now heads to the House.

Texas governor calls special session. Governor Abbott called for a special legislative session to convene on July 8. Although the agenda has not yet been set, it is likely that the legislature will be tasked with reviving provisions from the anti-voter omnibus bill, S.B. 7, that died after a dramatic walkout by House members at the end of the regular session in May.