The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, August 23

by Liz Avore

August 23, 2021

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Today is Monday, August 23.

We’re tracking 2,578 voting bills.There are 495 anti-voter bills and 1,484 pro-voter bills, with the remainder being either neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: The Texas special session continues, with the House finally reaching quorum – a hearing on the elections bill is happening right now. Arizona lawmakers filed a ballot initiative petition to make the state’s voter ID law more restrictive.

The Good News: The U.S. House of Representatives introduced the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act last week. This bill would restore the pre-clearance requirements in the Voting Rights Act that were gutted in Shelby County v. Holder. The Pascua Yaqui Tribe in Arizona reached a settlement with the Pima County Recorder’s Office to place an early voting site on the tribe’s reservation.

Looking Forward: Now that quorum has been reached, the Texas House will advance S.B. 1 this week.

Here are the details:

Arizona lawmakers file a ballot initiative petition to require strict voter ID. Last week, Arizona legislators filed a ballot initiative that would make the state’s voter ID law more restrictive. The initiative would require voters to include their driver’s license, state ID, or Social Security number with their ballot if they are returning it by mail. Under current law, no additional identifying information is required to request and submit a mail ballot. This proposed provision largely mimics S.B. 1713, which failed to pass during session. The initiative would also require voters who are casting a ballot in person – whether early or on Election Day – or dropping off an early ballot in person, to present a photo ID without exception. Under current law voters can present two forms of non-photo ID, such as a bank statement or a utility bill. The campaign must collect at least 237,645 valid signatures from Arizona voters by July 22, 2022, to refer the measure to the ballot for next year’s general election.

Meanwhile, in pro-voter news from the Grand Canyon State, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe has successfully secured an early voting site on tribal land for every statewide primary and general election from now until the end of 2024.

Texas House reaches quorum and quickly sets hearing on voting bill. On Thursday evening, the Texas House announced they had reached quorum for the first time since Democratic legislators left the state last month. The chamber immediately referred the omnibus anti-voter bill, S.B. 1, to committee, and then adjourned until Monday at 4 p.m. On Sunday night, the Select Committee on Constitutional Rights and Remedies posted a proposed committee substitute for S.B. 1 with language identical to the language currently in H.B. 3. The Committee hearing started at 8 a.m. this morning.

The language in H.B. 3, now the substituted version of S.B. 1, would:

  • Threaten election officials with criminal prosecution for enacting procedures to meet local community needs;
  • 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 exact ID number they used for voter registration when applying for or returning mail ballots;
  • Limit outdoor voting locations to situations involving natural disasters; and
  • Prohibit drive-through voting locations and mail ballot drop boxes.

The U.S. House introduces the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. H.R. 4, also known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, was introduced in the 117th Congress last week. The bill would effectively restore Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) by requiring states and jurisdictions with a proven history of discriminatory voting practices to obtain certification, or “preclearance” before making changes to election procedures to ensure that the proposed changes are not discriminatory. In 2013, the formula Section 5 used to determine which jurisdictions were subject to preclearance was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder. H.R. 4 would create a new, updated formula to determine which jurisdictions are subject to preclearance, and would establish other mechanisms for the federal government to oversee elections. Learn more about the bill this summary from the Leadership Conference Education Fund.

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

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