The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, January 24

by Liz Avore

January 24, 2022

Good afternoon and welcome to the latest issue of our legislative update. We’re grateful for all of our long-time readers and want to extend a special welcome to our most recent subscribers. 👋 Please consider forwarding this email to colleagues and friends today so that we can get this valuable information into more hands.

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Today is Monday, January 24.

Today is Monday, January 24. We are tracking 1,710 bills so far this session, with 382 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 840 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral or mixed or unclear in their impact. 

Want to go back to see bills introduced in 2021? You can now toggle between years on our Tracker. We update the Tracker daily, so be sure to check in throughout the week to see what’s new. 

The Bad News: A number of election subversion bills and bills that restrict ballot access will be heard in committee in Arizona this week. In addition, the Arizona House introduced one of the most comprehensive attacks on nonpartisan election administration and voter access that we have seen, including a provision that would allow the legislature to unilaterally decide whether to accept or reject election results. Last week, the New Hampshire Senate heard bills that would make voter ID requirements stricter in the state and that would ban electronic vote tabulators, forcing election officials to count all votes in the state by hand. We continue to see legislation introduced that threatens election administrators with criminal penalties, with new legislation introduced last week in West Virginia and Mississippi.

The Good News: New Hampshire, one of just seven states that fails to offer online voter registration, will hear a bill creating online voter registration in the Senate Election Committee this week. 

Looking Ahead: For the legislatures in session and not delayed because of high COVID rates, many bills face committee hearings this week. The Arizona House and Senate are both scheduled to hear a number of bills this week, including one that mandates a process to scrutinize certain people on the voter registration lists and one that creates new criminal offenses for election workers and contractors. New Hampshire’s Senate Election Committee will have a hearing on S.B. 425, which would create online voter registration, today. 

Here are the details:

Arizona moves on legislation that restricts voter access and interferes with election administration. Arizona’s Senate Committee on Government is scheduled to hear election subversion legislation today, including bills that mandate a poorly-defined review of voter registration lists, targeting specific voters and conducted by a person appointed by the legislature, and an “audit” of election equipment by third parties. These bills risk striking eligible voters from the registration list and threaten unnecessary decertification of election equipment requiring costly replacements. The committee is also hearing legislation that creates criminal offenses for inadvertent mistakes by election workers and contractors. The House Government and Elections Committee is scheduled to hear two bills that restrict voter access on Wednesday. H.B. 2238 would prohibit counties from offering drop boxes unless they are monitored. Despite the fact that Arizona does not currently offer same day registration, H.B. 2237 would ban the practice and would create a felony-level penalty for election administrators who violate the ban. 

On Friday, the Arizona House introduced omnibus legislation that is about as extreme a piece of legislation as we have seen: H.B. 2596 would eliminate early voting and no-excuse mail voting, require all ballot counting be done exclusively by hand, and allow for partisan legislature-run reviews of elections. Most alarmingly, it would allow the legislature to simply reject the results of an election and allow any elector to request a new election be held. 

New Hampshire hears legislation to create online voter registration – but also bills to make voter ID stricter and to ban electronic voter tabulators. New Hampshire’s Senate Election Committee is scheduled to have a hearing today on S.B. 425, which would create online voter registration. New Hampshire is one of just seven states that does not offer online voter registration. Last week, the Senate heard a bill that would make New Hampshire’s voter ID law stricter and a separate bill that would ban electronic vote tabulators, forcing election officials in the state to count all ballots by hand.

Bills that threaten election workers with criminal penalties are being introduced across the country. We are currently tracking 101 active bills in 21 states that would create new criminal or civil penalties for election officials. Bills that target election workers make it difficult to recruit and retain staff because individuals are deterred by the threat of inadvertently triggering serious criminal penalties. Staff shortages are more likely to lead to poor administration of elections. Last week, legislators introduced bills in Mississippi (H.B. 646 and S.B. 2296) and West Virginia (H.B. 4293) that would create new felony-level penalties for election officials who send absentee ballots – or even absentee applications – to registered voters who did not specifically request them.

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

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