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Today is Monday, March 7.
We are tracking 2,263 bills so far this session, with 539 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 1,016 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral or mixed or unclear in their impact.
The Bad News: Several bills passed the Arizona House last week, including legislation restricting drop boxes and voter registration and a bill that violates voter privacy. In Texas, several thousand votes are in jeopardy due to the state’s new ID requirements for voting by mail. West Virginia’s voting rights restoration legislation died in the Senate, and Florida’s omnibus voting bill, S.B. 524, passed the Senate.
The Good News: Last week, Connecticut’s Government Administration and Elections Committee heard a bill that would extend rules that allow voters to vote absentee due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Michigan county clerks wrote an open letter to state and legislative leaders seeking pre-processing, early voting, and audit changes.
Looking Ahead: This week, Missouri’s House Elections and Elected Officials Committee will hear H.B. 1646 which would change requirements for the selection of election judges, election commissioners, and poll watchers. The committee will also hear H.J.R. 133, which proposes a constitutional amendment that would require a majority of all registered voters to amend the constitution by popular initiative.
Here are the details:
Florida omnibus passes the Senate. While significantly improved from its original version, S.B. 524 has several concerning provisions, including the creation of an Office of Election Crimes and Security to oversee a voter fraud hotline and otherwise investigate possible election law violations. The bill also increases criminal penalties for voters returning ballots for their neighbors, impacts list maintenance processes for supervisors of election, prohibits ranked choice voting, and expands the prohibition on private funding of any election administration expense – including litigation costs. The bill has been sent to the House, which has a similar version (H.B. 7061) that is ready for a floor vote.
Connecticut hears a bill that would extend pandemic excuse for absentee voting. Connecticut only allows voters to vote by absentee ballot if one of the excuses set forth in the state constitution and statutes applies to the voter. In 2020, Connecticut added a temporary excuse for COVID-19, which allowed any voter to vote absentee due to the pandemic. That excuse expired on November 3, 2021, but S.B. 184 would extend it through November 9, 2022. The state’s Joint Committee on Government Administration and Elections heard the bill last week.
Michigan clerks advocate for common sense voting solutions. Leaders of the state’s municipal clerks association and county clerks association wrote an open letter calling for bipartisan leadership to improve the administration of elections in Michigan. In this letter, the clerks proposed several solutions including funding assistance to process the increased number of absentee ballots, pre-processing of absentee ballots, offering early voting, and transparent post-election audits.
Arizona advances legislation restricting drop boxes and voter registration and violating voter privacy. The Arizona House passed several pieces of legislation that restrict voter access. H.B. 2238 would prohibit the use of unmonitored drop boxes. Under this bill, drop boxes would have to be monitored by election staff or via 24 hour video surveillance of the drop box. H.B. 2492 would require applicants to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote. H.B. 2780 would violate voter privacy by publishing a list of all eligible voters, including unredacted personal information and an image of each voter’s completed ballot. These bills now head to the Senate. In addition, S.C.R. 1012 was adopted, creating a ballot proposition that, if ratified by voters, will require voters using mail ballots to include a specific ID number on their ballot envelope.
Texas S.B. 1 implementation challenges remain unresolved for primary election. Election officials in Texas faced continued challenges in conducting the first elections under S.B. 1 – the election overhaul passed last year in special session. Several thousand votes are in jeopardy due to the new ID requirements for voting by mail. Texas officials had under six months to prepare for implementation and the secretary of state only recently released a guide for implementing the new law.
West Virginia voting rights restoration legislation fails in the Senate. West Virginia’s voting rights restoration legislation did not pass the Senate. As amended, S.B. 488 would have re-enfranchised citizens after they completed their term of incarceration, regardless of any outstanding probation or parole. Under existing West Virginia law, a citizen cannot vote until after they complete their entire sentence, including probation and parole. A person’s eligibility to vote while on probation and parole is determined by the state they live in. 23 states allow citizens to vote while on probation or parole, and the remainder do not.
This update is powered by VRL’s State Voting Rights Tracker: tracker.votingrightslab.org