The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, July 26

by Liz Avore

July 26, 2021

Scheduling note: We’ll be back with the next edition of The Markup on Monday, August 9.

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Today is Monday, July 26.

We’re tracking 2,390 voting bills. There are 461 anti-voter bills and 1,387 pro-voter bills, with the remainder being either neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: The Texas House still doesn’t have enough lawmakers present to make quorum, but they were a little bit closer last week with the return of two House Democrats, though one has already rejoined his colleagues in Washington D.C. The House needs a quorum to vote on the omnibus anti-voter bills, S.B. 1 and H.B. 3. Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, lawmakers are looking to re-file their omnibus anti-voter bill, previously vetoed by Governor Tom Wolf, after Governor Wolf suggested that he is open to stricter voter ID rules

The Good News: Governor Wolf clarified that he would veto any bill that restricts popular voting options. In Louisiana, lawmakers failed to override Governor John Bel Edwards’ veto of a bill that would have made it harder to vote by absentee ballot. And Oregon enacted a bill last week allowing ballots to be considered timely if they are postmarked by Election Day.

Looking Forward: We’re keeping an eye on Pennsylvania and the possible re-filing of H.B. 1300. Michigan is holding a primary election on August 3, but early voting – available to all as no-excuse absentee voting – is available now.

Did You Know? Michigan voters brought no-excuse absentee voting to the Great Lake State through a 2018 ballot initiative known as Prop 3. Prop 3 also established same-day and automatic voter registration.

Here are the details:

Texas special session rambles on. Two Texas House Democrats returned last week. One of the returning representatives said he came back to engage in dialogue with Republicans to reduce the harmful elements of the House omnibus election bill, H.B. 3. Over the weekend, however, he rejoined his colleagues in Washington, D.C., announcing that the dialogue sessions were unproductive. The House is still nine members away from meeting quorum.

The Senate passed its own omnibus election bill, S.B. 1, on a party-line vote. No action can be taken in the House until they reach quorum.

Both S.B. 1 and H.B. 3 will make it harder to vote in Texas. Anti-voter provisions in both bills would:

  • Threaten election officials with criminal prosecution for enacting procedures to meet local community needs and increase voter freedom;
  • Threaten advocacy groups and individuals with felony prosecution for providing needed assistance to voters at polling locations and with mail ballots;
  • Limit the ability of election judges to remove disruptive or intimidating partisan poll watchers;
  • Allow partisan poll watchers to take election officials to court over perceived obstruction;
  • Require voters using mail ballots to include the ID number contained in their registration records when applying for or returning mail ballots;
  • Strictly limit the type of assistance a person – even a family member – may provide a voter when casting their ballot; and
  • Severely limit outdoor and drive-through voting locations and ban mail ballot drop boxes.

In total, 110 election bills have been introduced in the Special Session, which will end on August 7. Governor Greg Abbott has pledged to continue to call special sessions until the legislators return.

Pennsylvania anti-voter omnibus bill is back in the news. Last week, Governor Tom Wolf seemed to indicate an openness to stricter voter ID rules, including for mail ballots. The sponsors of H.B. 1300, the vetoed omnibus bill, are looking to re-introduce this bill, and the legislature is also considering putting voter ID on the 2023 ballot as a constitutional amendment. Governor Wolf later clarified that he would only consider stricter voter ID rules in the context of legislation expanding voting rights, and said he would veto a resurrected H.B. 1300. The legislature is in recess until September.

Louisiana fails to override governor’s veto of anti-voter bill. The Louisiana legislature failed to override Governor Edwards’ veto of S.B. 224. This bill would have required absentee voters to include a specific ID number with their absentee ballot applications and completed ballots. Current law just requires basic identifying information to request an absentee ballot.

Oregon expands mail ballot deadline. Last week, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a law changing the deadline for mail ballots from a received-by Election Day to a postmarked-by Election Day deadline. Under the new law, ballots postmarked by Election Day must be received within seven days of Election Day to be counted. Oregon joins thirteen other states with a postmark deadline for ballots. A postmark deadline centers on the action of the voter rather than the mail system, and instills confidence in voters that their ballots will be counted.

Michigan primary elections are coming up. Voters in the parts of Michigan holding primary elections on August 3 primary can head to their clerk’s office to cast a ballot now. Early voting must be available during normal clerk hours in the 40 days before the election, including the Saturday or Sunday before Election Day. To learn about the options for early voting and voting in person on Election Day, visit the State Voting Rights Tracker’s Michigan page.

The community of Hamtramck will be providing Bengali language voter assistance materials for this election, thanks to a recent consent agreement. Five states have passed bills this session expanding language access at the polls.

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

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