The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Tuesday, January 17

by Liz Avore

January 17, 2023

Welcome to The Markup. Please consider sharing this post with colleagues and friends today so that we can get this valuable information into more hands.

If someone else shared this post with you, and you would like to get these weekly updates straight to your inbox going forward, please subscribe here.

We’ve relaunched our State Voting Rights Tracker for 2023 with a brand-new look and user experience! The Tracker continues to provide the same detailed, reliable analysis of legislation and existing law you’ve come to expect since its launch in January 2020, only now with more intuitive organization and design.

We’ll be hosting two virtual demonstrations this week on how to use this powerful tool! Please register at the links below:

Today is Tuesday, January 17. We are tracking 343 bills so far this session, with 64 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 181 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: The Pennsylvania Senate advanced a constitutional amendment that would require voters to show an ID document to vote in person, or a copy of their ID to vote by mail. Arizona lawmakers introduced a bill allowing candidates and political parties to initiate post-election reviews of results.

The Good News: Two bills became law in Washington, D.C.: one ensures every registered voter receives a ballot in the mail prior to each election, and the other expands automatic voter registration to include district healthcare agencies. The New York Senate passed a suite of bills, including legislation that would expand in-person early voting and mail voting access, improve training and pay for election workers, and create an institute to collect comprehensive elections data to facilitate evidence-based policy.

Looking Ahead: A coalition of nonprofit organizations filed a lawsuit challenging restrictive voter ID and mail voting provisions in Ohio’s recently-enacted H,B. 458. In Georgia, following the passage of S.B. 202 in 2021, the State Board of Elections initiated the process for removing and assuming control of Fulton County elections. On February 7, the state board will make a decision about whether to proceed with the takeover after hearing the findings of a performance review panel. Late last week, that panel recommended that the state board not proceed with a state takeover of Fulton County elections.

Here are the details:

Pair of bills expanding voter access enacted in D.C. Two bills, Bill 507 and Bill 951 became law in the District of Columbia after completing the congressional review process. Bill 507 establishes a universal mailed ballot system, with all registered voters receiving ballots in the mail prior to each election. Under prior law, voters could apply for a mail ballot for a specific election, or enroll in a permanent mail voting list. Bill 951 expands automatic voter registration to include district healthcare agencies – it formerly only took place at the DMV and Department of Corrections.

Lawsuit filed to contest new strict voter ID law and mail voting restrictions in Ohio. A coalition of nonprofit organizations filed a lawsuit to contest several provisions of Ohio’s recently enacted H.B. 458. The lawsuit alleges that multiple provisions of the bill will severely restrict Ohioans’ access to the polls. The suit particularly addresses the state’s revised voter ID requirements, provisions that would make it more difficult for voters to cure a mail ballot, and changes to important deadlines for a person seeking to vote by mail. The lawsuit argues the restrictions imposed by the bill are overly burdensome, and are not adequately justified by the bill’s proponents’ arguments that the provisions are needed to bolster confidence in the state’s elections.

Pennsylvania advances a state constitutional amendment to require ID documents to vote. The Pennsylvania Senate adopted S.B. 1, which proposes three amendments to the state constitution, one of which relates to voting and election law. That amendment would require in-person voters to provide an ID document before receiving a ballot, while mail voters would be required to provide a copy of such ID with their ballot in the return envelope. Because identical language was adopted by the full legislature last session, the amendment now requires adoption by the state House before advancing to the ballot for voter approval. The bill provides that the amendment would be included on ballots for the next primary election sufficiently after its adoption by both chambers.

The New York Senate starts the session by passing a suite of election reforms that would improve voter access and election administration. The New York Senate wasted no time in the early weeks of the year, passing nearly a dozen election bills through the entire chamber in the opening days of the 2023-24 session. One would allow local boards of election to open portable early voting locations for short periods of time, but only in addition to other locations that must be open for the full early voting period. Another would authorize the use of drop boxes, and ensure timely notification of their locations for voters. Several of the bills focused on election workers, aiming to improve training, pay, and the hours of work. Another bill would create the New York Voting and Elections Database and Institute to gather and analyze comprehensive election data to facilitate evidence-based policy and accurate assessments of discriminatory policies.

Georgia panel recommends against state takeover of Fulton County Board of Elections. A performance review panel appointed by the Georgia State Board of Elections recommended against a state takeover of Fulton County elections. This panel was appointed in August 2021, shortly after S.B. 202 (2021) established a process whereby the state board of elections can remove and assume control over a county board. The panel will present their findings to the state board at a February 7 meeting, and the state board will then make a final decision about whether to pursue further action.

Arizona introduces a bill to enable Texas-style post-election reviews of election procedures. Arizona H.B. 2078 would allow candidates, political parties, and political committees that supported or opposed measures on a ballot to demand answers and documentation from local election officials to investigate perceived illegal actions by an election officer, “irregularities” in results, and/or inadequacies or irregularities in documentation required by election law. If unsatisfied with the answers provided, these partisan actors could escalate the matter to the secretary of state, who could in turn order the local election officials to take corrective action, and if not taken quickly enough, fine them personally. Similar provisions passed one chamber of the Texas Legislature in 2021 in two of the state’s special sessions.

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