The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, August 29

by Liz Avore

August 29, 2022

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Today is Monday, August 29. We are tracking 2,195 bills so far this session, with 581 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 1,048 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral or mixed or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: The North Carolina Republican party filed a new lawsuit seeking to create new grounds for rejecting mail ballots. A federal appeals court affirmed a decision upholding Mississippi’s permanent disenfranchisement for citizens with past felony convictions.

The Good News: California’s Assembly passed a bill that would provide protections for election workers while the state senate passed a bill mandating drop boxes on college campuses.

Looking Ahead: Georgia’s secretary of state confirmed that a performance review of the Fulton County Board of Elections will not be completed before the midterm elections. A new lawsuit in Alaska seeks to ensure valid ballots are not automatically thrown out due to minor errors and omissions on absentee ballot envelopes.

Here are the details:

California is close to enacting election worker protections and dropboxes on college campuses. California’s Assembly passed a Senate bill that would offer comprehensive confidentiality protections for election workers and officials who face threats. Because the Assembly passed a different version than the Senate originally did, the Senate must agree to the Assembly’s version before the bill can be sent to the governor. The relevant Senate committee recommended the Senate “concur” in the bill, making its enactment likely.

Meanwhile, the California Senate passed an Assembly bill that would require dropboxes be made available on state college campuses for statewide elections. Similar to the other bill, the Senate’s version is slightly different and the Assembly must concur before the bill can go to the governor.

Advocates sue to require Alaska’s adoption of a cure process. The Arctic Village Council, League of Women Voters of Alaska, and others filed a lawsuit in state court claiming that by failing to provide voters with notice and opportunity to cure problems with their absentee ballot envelopes, the state is violating voters’ right to due process and unduly burdening their right to vote. Similar litigation has succeeded in federal court in other states, including Indiana, North Carolina, and North Dakota. The Alaska lawsuit comes on the heels of a recent special primary election, in which thousands of registered voters, particularly rural and Native voters, were disenfranchised because their absentee ballot envelope missed a signature or was not notarized. A cure process would ensure voters are notified and given an opportunity to correct these issues, so their ballots could be counted. Most states have a statewide cure process; Alaska is one of 19 states that do not.

The North Carolina Republican party filed litigation seeking to create new grounds for rejecting mail ballots. Under current North Carolina law, voters are required to sign their mail ballot envelope in front of either a notary or two witnesses. The North Carolina Republican Party recently filed a lawsuit seeking to allow county boards of election to reject mail ballots that have been properly notarized or witnessed, so long as the county board of elections determines the signature does not match the signature in the voter registration file.

Federal appeals court allows Mississippi to continue to permanently disenfranchise citizens based on past felony convictions. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed a district court ruling upholding Mississippi’s permanent disenfranchisement of individuals convicted of certain felonies, including forgery, perjury, and obtaining money or goods under false pretense. The policy, which dates back to 1890 and is enshrined in the state’s constitution, was established as part of an effort to prevent Black citizens from voting after the Civil War. Experts estimate that nearly 16% of voting-age Black Misssissipians are disenfranchised by this law.

State takeover of Fulton County Board of Elections will not be completed before midterm elections. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger confirmed that the ongoing performance review of the county’s board of elections, which could result in the installation of a state-appointed interim superintendent to oversee the county’s elections, will not be completed until sometime after November’s elections.

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

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