The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, February 7

by Liz Avore

February 7, 2022

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Today is Monday, February 7.

We are tracking 1,953 bills so far this session, with 458 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 926 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral or mixed or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: The Florida omnibus bills are here. Each chamber of the legislature introduced similar omnibus bills last week, which include provisions that increase the chance that absentee ballots will be rejected, threaten voters with a felony for returning ballots on behalf of neighbors, and create an Office of Election Crimes & Security to investigate possible election law violations. In West Virginia, legislators introduced a bill (H.B. 4518) that would effectively repeal automatic voter registration. In Missouri, legislators introduced H.B. 2633, which would ban electronic tabulators and require a hand-count in all races.

The Good News: Some good news out of Arizona this week, where legislation passed out of a House committee with bipartisan support that would give voters another option for returning mail ballots. Meanwhile, Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers is effectively killing a radical proposal that would allow the legislature to reject valid election results by assigning it to all 12 committees. In a unanimous bipartisan vote, New Hampshire’s House Election Law Committee recommended against the passage of H.B. 1484, which would require a standardless audit of the 2020 election results. In Alaska, legislators introduced S.B. 178, which would allow all eligible voters to opt in to a permanent mail ballot list.

Looking Ahead: There are more hearings this week in Arizona, with the Senate Government Committee scheduled to meet today with 13 election-related bills on the agenda and the House Government Committee scheduled to meet on Wednesday with seven election-related bills on their agenda. The Missouri House is expected to consider and pass H.J.R. 79, which would increase requirements for proponents to get initiative petitions on the ballot and for voters to ultimately pass those petitions.

Here are the details:

Florida omnibus bills introduced last week. The Florida House and Senate introduced very similar omnibus bills last week. The Senate version was filed as substituted text in the previously introduced S.B. 524. This bill would create an Office of Election Crimes & Security to oversee a voter fraud hotline and otherwise investigate possible election law violations. It increases criminal penalties for voters returning ballots for their neighbors, and it would increase the chance of absentee ballots rejection by requiring that they be verified using both a specific ID number and a signature match – and requiring that ballots be rejected if either one does not match. The House companion bill is H.B. 7061. Both bills cleared their first committees last week.

Arizona advances bill to give voters a new option to return their ballots and kills problematic election review bill. A bipartisan vote sent H.B. 2469 out of committee, a bill which would allow voters to bring their early voting ballots to their polling place, show ID, and insert them directly into tabulators at the polling place. This would give voters the option of either having their identity verified using ID or a signature match. Meanwhile, House Speaker Bowers is effectively killing H.B. 2596 by assigning it to all 12 of the chamber’s committees. The bill would have given the legislature the right to invalidate the results of any election and the authority to audit any election. 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.

West Virginia House introduces bills undermining automatic voter registration. H.B. 4518 would implicitly repeal automatic voter registration in the state by requiring any automatic voter registration agency to obtain explicit consent to register a voter and a completed voter registration form from all applicants. Under existing law – and like many other states with automatic voter registration policies – West Virginians are automatically registered to vote during DMV transactions if they do not opt out during the transaction. Voter data is transmitted without the need for a separate voter registration form to be completed by the applicant.

New Hampshire “forensic audit” bill disfavorably referred out of committee. H.B. 1484, one of the worst of the Arizona sham audit copycat bills for carrying over some of the most problematic aspects of the Arizona sham review, would have required the speaker of the House of Representatives to appoint “an independent third party” to conduct a so-called “forensic audit” of the certified results of the November 3, 2020, election. The bill does not describe what qualifications the third party must have, or what the “forensic audit” would involve, but its focus is broad. The bill expressly authorizes the Secretary of State to receive and disburse private funds for the “forensic audit” and does not provide an appropriation. On Thursday, the House Election Law Committee sent the bill to the floor with a recommendation to vote against it.

Missouri House introduces a bill to ban the use of electronic tabulators. H.B. 2633 would both ban electronic tabulators and require a hand-count in all races. Similar legislation to ban the use of electronic tabulators for counting ballots was just heard in New Hampshire and legislators in several other states, including Georgia, are discussing the policy. Missouri’s extreme measure would force election administrators to count all ballots by hand, which could be cripplingly expensive for populous jurisdictions and delay the reporting of election results. This week, the Missouri House is expected to hear and pass H.J.R. 79, which would change the ballot initiative process in the state from requiring a simple majority vote to a two-third vote, and increase the number of signatures required to get an initiative on the ballot.

Alaska Senate introduces bill to create permanent mail voter list. S.B. 178 would allow voters to opt in to a permanent mail ballot list on the ordinary mail ballot application. Voters would be removed from the list if they don’t vote for four years or their ballot is returned undeliverable. Permanent absentee voting is currently available in eight states and remains very popular in those states.

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

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