The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, August 16

by Liz Avore

August 16, 2021

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Today is Monday, August 16.

We’re tracking 2,540 voting bills. There are 490 anti-voter bills and 1,470 pro-voter bills, with the remainder being either neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: After a fifteen-hour filibuster by Senator Carol Alvarado, the Texas Senate passed S.B. 1 on a party line vote. Meanwhile, the Texas House introduced their own omnibus anti-voter bill. In North Carolina, the House passed a budget bill which included anti-voter provisions. Ohio legislators introduced a new anti-voter bill.

The Good News: Governor Tony Evers vetoed several anti-voter bills in Wisconsin last week.

Looking Forward: We’re waiting to see if the Texas House will meet quorum and advance S.B. 1 this week.

Here are the details:

Texas second special session continues. It was a dramatic, eventful week in Texas.

Last Monday, the House introduced H.B. 3. Among its many anti-voter provisions, this bill would:

  • Threaten election officials with criminal prosecution for enacting procedures to meet local community;
  • Threaten people with felony prosecution for providing needed assistance to voters with disabilities;
  • 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 identical to the one they provided with their registration application when applying for or returning mail ballots; and
  • Ban outdoor and drive-through voting locations and mail ballot drop boxes, even in cases of a local emergency.

On Tuesday, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan issued civil arrest warrants to have House Democrats participating in the quorum break arrested and brought to the Capitol.

On Wednesday evening, Texas Senator Carol Alvarado began filibustering the omnibus anti-voter bill, S.B. 1. Texas rules require a filibustering senator to focus on the topic at hand, and the senator may not eat, drink, use the bathroom, sit, or lean during the filibuster. Senator Alvarado filibustered for 15 hours, concluding Thursday morning, at which point the Senate passed S.B. 1 and then adjourned. Like H.B. 3, this bill would add new restrictions for mail ballot voters and voters with disabilities, increase the authority of partisan poll workers, and threaten election administrators and individuals assisting voters with criminal penalties. It now goes to the House, which has not yet made quorum during the current special session.

Wisconsin elections bills vetoed. Governor Tony Evers vetoed six elections bills last week. Among other things, these bills would have restricted voters’ choices for returning their ballots, made it harder to apply for an absentee ballot, and created additional barriers for voters in residential care facilities and retirement homes.

North Carolina budget contains anti-voter provisions. Last week, the North Carolina House passed the budget by a vote of 72-41. This bill contains several elections-related provisions, including one stripping the authority of the State Board of Elections and the attorney general to expeditiously settle lawsuits and another stripping the governor of emergency powers. The bill also appropriates $5 million to implement a voter ID law that has been preliminarily enjoined by a state court because of evidence that it was intended to target Black voters. While the Senate and House versions of this bill both contain these anti-voter provisions, they differ overall such that they will need to be reconciled before they go to the governor.

Ohio introduces new omnibus anti-voter legislation. Ohio’s recently introduced H.B. 387 would restrict the types of ID a voter may present when voting in person, and would also require that voters send a copy of photo ID with their application to vote by mail. It would eliminate no-excuse absentee voting by mail and secure drop boxes, and would restrict the time period for in-person absentee voting. The legislative session will resume in early September.