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Today is Monday, January 31.
We are tracking 1,813 bills so far this session, with 415 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 875 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral or mixed or unclear in their impact.
The Bad News: Arizona’s House Rules Committee passed H.B. 2238, which prohibits unstaffed drop boxes. The Arizona House also introduced H.B. 2617, a bill that would purge voters from the registration list without proper checks to ensure eligible voters are not erroneously removed. In Texas, after reports of as many as half of all absentee ballots applications being rejected in several jurisdictions, officials only just released guidance to implement last year’s S.B. 1.
The Good News: New Hampshire’s bill creating online voter registration passed out of the Senate Election Committee and it now heads to the full Senate floor. Oregon’s voting rights restoration bill, H.B. 4147, was introduced last week. The Alaska House State Affairs Committee held a hearing on H.B. 66, legislation that would create same day registration and expand the permanent absentee voter list. West Virginia’s Senate introduced S.B. 488, clarifying that citizens automatically regain the right to vote after completion of incarceration, probation, parole, or after a pardon. Meanwhile, a dozen bills that would have rolled back recent voting rights expansions died in the Virginia Senate last week.
Looking Ahead: We’re expecting a Florida omnibus election bill to drop later today. Today is the deadline to introduce new legislation in the Arizona Senate, and the Arizona Senate Government Committee meeting has a hearing scheduled for today. Plus, the Arizona House Government and Elections Committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday.
Here are the details:
Arizona moves on legislation that restricts drop boxes and interferes with election administration. Arizona’s House Rules Committee passed H.B. 2238, which would prohibit counties from offering drop boxes unless they are monitored. This would have a disproportionate impact on indigenous voters because tribal lands often rely on drop boxes due to less reliable mail service. The Arizona House also introduced H.B. 2617, a bill that would require removal of voters from the registration list, with a focus on non-citizens and non-residents. The bill has no rules or guidelines for confirming the correct person is removed from the list. The bill would also require a voter whose registration was canceled for non-citizenship to be referred to the county attorney and state attorney general for criminal investigation. The Senate Committee on Government has a hearing on elections bills today, and the House Government and Elections Committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday.
Virginia Senate committee kills bills that would have rolled back voter access. Last session, Virginia legislators passed expansive voting laws, including a repeal of the state’s photo ID law, the permanent creation of ballot drop boxes, and 45 days of no-excuse absentee voting. The Senate last week killed several bills aimed squarely at reversing those measures, including a bill to reinstate the old voter ID law and bills to eliminate no-excuse absentee voting, same-day registration, drop boxes, and the permanent absentee voter list.
West Virginia introduces bill clarifying voting restoration rules, and the secretary of state issues guidance that COVID-19 still a valid reason to vote by mail. Last week, the West Virginia Senate introduced S.B. 488, which would clarify that voters who are disenfranchised due to a criminal conviction automatically regain the right to vote after completion of incarceration, probation, parole, or after a pardon. This bill does not change existing law but rather clarifies the statutory language. Meanwhile, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner offered guidance last week clarifying that being confined to one’s home or other location due to COVID-19 remains a valid excuse to vote by mail in the state. Though most states allow all citizens to vote by mail, West Virginia is one of 17 states that still requires an excuse to do so.
Oregon House pre-files voting restoration bill. H.B. 4147 would end criminal disenfranchisement in Oregon. Under this legislation, Oregon would join Maine, Vermont, and D.C. by allowing people to vote regardless of their incarceration status. Under existing law, people who are currently incarcerated due to felony conviction are not allowed to vote in Oregon.
Texas secretary of state provides belated guidance to implement S.B. 1. Texas’s omnibus election bill, which passed last year, created a new requirement for voters to provide a specific identification number – a driver’s license, state ID, or social security number – when requesting an absentee ballot and again when returning that ballot. Recent data from clerks has shown alarmingly high rates of rejection – as high as 50% in the counties that include Austin, San Antonio, and Houston. In light of this confusion, the secretary of state has issued a guide to implementing the new law, just two weeks before early voting for the March primary will begin.
New Hampshire’s bill to create online voter registration moves out of committee. New Hampshire’s Senate Election Committee voted favorably 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. The bill now heads to the full Senate floor.
Alaska committee holds hearing on election omnibus bill. The Alaska House State Affairs Committee held a hearing on H.B. 66. This bill would create same day registration for all elections, eliminate the witness requirement for absentee ballots, and create a permanent absentee voter list available to all voters. It would also create a cure process. Alaska currently only offers same day registration for presidential and vice presidential elections, and is one of nine states to offer permanent absentee voting for some, but not all, voters.
This update is powered by VRL’s State Voting Rights Tracker: tracker.votingrightslab.org