The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, October 25

by Liz Avore

October 25, 2021

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Today is Monday, October 25.

We’re tracking 2,721 voting bills. There are 530 anti-voter bills and 1,532 pro-voter bills, with the remainder being either neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Good News: Texas’s third special session ended without enacting any new elections bills and the governor has indicated he will not call another session anytime soon.

The Bad News: In Michigan, the House passed out of committee a bill that would prohibit any local clerk from sending an absentee voter ballot application unsolicited. The bill now heads to the full House for a vote. Republicans in the U.S. Senate unanimously blocked debate on the Freedom to Vote Act last week. And the Pennsylvania Senate introduced a bill to place a moratorium on no-excuse voting by mail.

Looking Forward: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer will likely veto two strict voter ID bills, S.B. 303 and S.B. 304, soon. The U.S. Senate may take up the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act this week.

Here are the details:

Michigan House advances bill prohibiting clerks from sending unsolicited absentee voter ballot applications. The bill, H.B. 5268, would prevent clerks from sending absentee ballot applications to voters without the voter first requesting it, either each election or by virtue of being on the permanent absentee voter list. The bill also would prevent the Secretary of State from sending out absentee ballot applications to any voter, solicited or not. This bill now goes to the full House for a vote.

Meanwhile, we are still waiting for Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s vetoes of two strict ID bills, S.B. 303 and S.B. 304, which passed the legislature the week before last. You can learn more about these bills in last week’s edition of The Markup.

Texas’s third special session ends without enacting any new elections bills. In the final week of the third special legislative session, we were waiting to see if the Texas House would pass S.B. 10, which would make illegal voting a second degree felony, penalized at the same level as homicide, robbery, and kidnapping, or S.B. 47, a bill that would create a procedure for partisan-motivated reviews of the 2020 election, as well as for future elections up and down the ballot. After the session ended, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick voiced support for an additional special session specifically to bring up the content of these two bills. Governor Greg Abbott’s spokesperson responded that there was no need for another special session “at this time.” The governor holds the power to call any additional special sessions, and none has been called to date.

U.S. Senate Republicans block debate on the Freedom to Vote Act. Last week, a procedural vote to debate the Freedom to Vote Act failed to reach the 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster. The bill would create a massive sweep of changes from expanded early voting to universal no-excuse absentee voting to automatic voter registration in every state. It is unclear how this bill can advance without a relaxation of the filibuster rules, which Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) indicated he would not support. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said a vote on John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will come to the floor as soon as this week. This bill, which would restore the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act, will likely be filibustered also.

Pennsylvania Senate introduces bill to place a moratorium on mail voting. S.B. 914 would place a moratorium on no-excuse absentee voting (called “voting by mail-in ballot” in Pennsylvania) until the earlier of the 2023 primary election and enactment of legislation that “addresses any problem associated with voting by an official mail-in ballot.” It remains to be seen if this bill will have any traction in the legislature, but it would likely be vetoed by Governor Tom Wolf, who has stated he would veto any bill that unnecessarily restricts the freedom to vote or undoes the election reforms of Act 77, if it makes it to his desk. Act 77, which was passed in 2019, established no-excuse mail-in voting in Pennsylvania.

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

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