While much attention has been on federal voting legislation last week, state legislators are continuing to act to expand or restrict voting access. We are pleased to bring you some of the highlights from the past week. Please consider forwarding The Markup to colleagues and friends today so that we can get this valuable information into more hands.
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Today is Tuesday, January 18.
We are excited to bring you our updated 2022 election legislation tracker. We are tracking 1,514 bills so far this session, with 333 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 767 that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral or mixed/unclear. Want to go back to see bills introduced in 2021? You can now toggle between years on our tracker.
The Bad News: Efforts to interfere with the administration of elections continue in Florida where Governor Ron DeSantis has proposed a new Office of Election Crimes and Security. Meanwhile in Arizona, legislators have proposed funding for an entity with no elections expertise to review voter registrations. Legislators in Virginia introduced several bills (16 total) to roll back recently enacted election reforms, including a repeal of same day registration and a shortening of the early vote period.
The Good News: Virginia legislators are also moving to restore voting rights for the formerly incarcerated, with several introduced bills aimed at enacting a constitutional amendment to allow rights restoration.
Here are the details:
Florida Governor proposes expensive and unnecessary election review office. In keeping with the trend of 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has proposed a new, $6 million Office of Election Crimes and Security in his budget, to be theoretically staffed by 45 investigators. Both chambers had hearings on the budget last week. DeSantis’s proposal has not been introduced formally to the legislature yet, but we expect a bill soon. Legislatively, we are tracking 21 bills in 12 states that propose concerning election reviews.
Arizona legislature proposes funding for an entity with no expertise in election law to investigate voter registration. Two Arizona bills would fund the state’s auditor general to investigate state and local election administrators’ performance of their election duties. Normally the auditor investigates financial practices, and has no election law expertise. Moreover, the bill would give the similarly inexperienced Legislative Audit Committee the power to shape the auditor’s investigations. H.B. 2385 would provide the auditor general with $500,000 of taxpayer money to review the voter registration and mail voting processes at the state and local level. Another introduced bill would require the auditor general to “conduct systems and procedures audits of offices conducting the general election” and appropriates $800,000 for that duty.
Virginia legislative session kicks off with bills introduced to undo recent advancements in voter access, but also to expand voting restoration. Virginia legislators introduced 16 bills last week aimed at rolling back recently expanded voting rights. These include bills to restrict the use of drop boxes, end no-excuse absentee voting, shorten the early voting period, and repeal same-day voter registration. To read more about the new reforms under attack this session, check out our report on the implementation of the new voting laws in Virginia from the fall. But it’s not all bad news in the Old Dominion: legislators from both parties have introduced three bills to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated citizens. This is the second step in the process for amending the state constitution to change the law. The first step passed last session. If this resolution passes, it will then go to the voters for approval. Virginia is one of just three states with no automatic restoration of voting rights.
This update is powered by VRL’s State Voting Rights Tracker: tracker.votingrightslab.org