The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, July 25

by Liz Avore

July 25, 2022

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Today is Monday, July 25. We are tracking 2,185 bills so far this session, with 579 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 1,041 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: The Wisconsin Legislature rejected a rule allowing clerks to complete missing address details for ballot witnesses. Revocation of this guidance could have an immediate impact on thousands of absentee ballots in the upcoming primary election.

The Good News: Delaware enacted no-excuse absentee voting and same-day registration. A Michigan court struck down a legislative practice that has been used to avoid submitting ballot initiative language to voters in its original form. California enacted a new law that will provide better transparency around signature verification.

Looking Ahead: We are watching Florida’s August 23rd primary, where many voters will be unable to vote by mail unless they update their voter registration file before the primary.

Here are the details:

Delaware enacts no-excuse absentee voting and same-day registration. Governor John Carney signed into law S.B. 320, which opens mail voting to all registered voters – eliminating the state’s requirement that voters have a qualifying excuse to vote by absentee ballot – and H.B. 25, which will allow prospective voters to register to vote up to (and including) Election Day. Under prior law, the state’s voter registration deadline was the fourth Saturday before Election Day.

Wisconsin’s legislature rejects Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) efforts to count valid ballots with minor omissions, while voters with disabilities sue to ensure access to voting assistance. Wisconsin voters are at risk of having their mail ballots rejected over minor omissions, such as a missing zip code for their ballot’s witness. Wisconsin is one of a small number of states that requires voters to fill out their mail ballots in front of a witness, who must then write their signature and address on the certificate envelope. In accordance with guidance issued by the WEC in 2016, election officials may fill in missing witness address information in certain circumstances. In response to a lawsuit seeking to invalidate that policy, the WEC codified that guidance as a rule and filed it with the Legislature’s committee that reviews administrative rules. The committee then rejected the rule.

A recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision invalidating drop boxes seems to assert that voters –  including those with disabilities – cannot be assisted when returning their completed ballot to a municipal clerk. On Friday, voters with disabilities sued to ensure they could exercise their federal rights (which entitle them to assistance in voting) in the upcoming primary and thereafter. Voters have recently won similar litigation in North Carolina.

Florida voters face new hurdles due to ID requirements. As Florida’s August 23rd primary approaches, many voters are receiving a surprise request from their supervisor of elections to update their registration files with their driver’s license or Social Security number. Voters without this information in their registration files will be unable to vote by mail due to the new ID requirements for applications enacted in last year’s S.B. 90. Roughly 33,000 voters in Duval County alone were informed of the need to update their information, and counties throughout Florida, where nearly 5 million people voted by mail in 2020, are conducting similar outreach to avoid leaving thousands of voters without access to a popular voting method.

Michigan court strikes down legislative practice of approving and amending ballot measures as “thwarting the power of the people.”  The Michigan Court of Claims ruled last week that the state legislature may not approve a citizen-initiated ballot measure prior to its submission to voters and then subsequently amend the approved measure during the same legislative session. The court ruled that adopting a ballot measure before it reaches voters and then changing it within the same legislative session “thwart[s] the power of the People to initiate laws and then vote on those same laws—a power expressly reserved to the people in the Michigan Constitution.” The ruling alleviates advocate concerns that the legislature may have used the strategy with one of the election-related ballot measures currently pending approval for the ballot.

California enacts a bill that provides greater transparency into the signature verification process. Governor Gavin Newsom signed A.B. 1619, a new law that will ensure that when people register to vote, they are informed that the signature they provide during the registration process will be used to validate the signature on their mail ballot.

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

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