The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Tuesday, July 6

by Liz Avore

July 6, 2021

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Today is Tuesday, July 6.

We’re tracking 2,263 voting bills that have been introduced so far this session. There are 438 anti-voter bills and 1,292 pro-voter bills, with the remainder being either neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact. 

The Bad News: The Arizona legislative session ended last week, but not before passing a budget bill with provisions stripping authority from the secretary of state and a standalone bill creating a new felony offense for election officials.

The Good News: In Colorado and Illinois, bills that expand voter access for non-English speakers and incarcerated voters, respectively, are on their way to becoming law. Two particularly bad bills that would have made it harder to vote in Arizona failed in the final days of its session. Meanwhile, some governors are fulfilling their promises to veto bills that would make it harder to vote in their states. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers vetoed the first anti-voter bill to hit his desk last week. And Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf vetoed H.B. 1300, which would have imposed voter ID restrictions, limited mail-in voting, and restricted the number of days to register to vote. 

Looking Forward: 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. Wisconsin Governor Evers has pledged to veto the remaining anti-voter bills once he receives them.

Here are the details:

Arizona passes two anti-voter bills in the last days of its session; other anti-voter bills fail. In the remaining days of its legislative session, Arizona passed a budget bill containing a provision that shifts authority to settle election-related lawsuits away from the secretary of state (currently a Democrat) to the attorney general (a Republican). The provision is designed to sunset on January 2, 2023, when a new attorney general may take office. It also authorizes the attorney general to remove registered voters from the rolls. The legislature also passed a bill that would make it a felony to send an absentee ballot to a voter who has not requested one. Meanwhile, a bill that would have created a new crime to punish election workers failed, as did one that would have shifted election authority away from the secretary of state and the governor to the Legislative Council. 

Pennsylvania governor vetoes omnibus anti-voter bill. Governor Wolf vetoed H.B. 1300 last week. Among its many anti-voter provisions, the bill would have restricted the use of drop boxes, reduced the time period for registration and requesting mail ballots, and established more stringent voter ID requirements. The bill would also have shifted election authority from bipartisan election administrators to partisan actors, and it would have created new election crimes with penalties on par with those for murder and rape. 

Colorado expands multilingual ballot access. Last week, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed into law a bill to expand multilingual ballot access and to create a translation support hotline. Colorado is the fourth state to pass legislation expanding language access for people voting in-person voting this session, joining Texas, Vermont, and Virginia. 

Illinois expands access for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated voters. In Illinois, the legislature sent H.B. 3235 to the governor last week. This bill would permit the Department of Corrections to become a voter registration agency and require the department to provide individuals in their custody with information about voter registration 45 days before their scheduled release. Nationwide, 19 states have introduced legislation to provide registration information to returning citizens. Maryland, New York, and Washington have successfully enacted bills this year.

Wisconsin governor vetoes first of many anti-voter bills. Last week, Governor Evers vetoed a bill that would have heavily restricted the use of private funding for election administration. This is a trend we have seen emerge in light of private dollars being made available to help offset the cost of election administration in 2020. Most of the dollars were spent on critical purchases like PPE and additional personnel, and there is no evidence of adverse effects on the integrity of the elections as a result. Ten states have enacted similarly restrictive bills this session and bills are still pending in North Carolina and Michigan. While other anti-voter bills have passed the legislature, they have not yet been formally sent to the governor, but he is expected to veto each of them once he receives them.

Texas governor calls special session. Governor Abbott called for a special legislative session to convene on this Thursday, 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.

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

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