The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, January 23

by Liz Avore

January 23, 2023

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Today is Monday, January 23. We are tracking 464 bills so far this session, with 94 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 245 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: The Arizona legislature is continuing to introduce measures restricting voter access, including bills to restrict, or even eliminate, no-excuse mail voting and in-person early voting. Legislative leaders in North Carolina are asking the state supreme court to rehear a case just decided by the court – but by a different set of justices – last month. The state’s voter ID law was overturned by the decision in question.

The Good News: A Republican lawmaker in West Virginia introduced a bill that would restore voting rights to people with past felony convictions as soon as they are released from prison. Similar legislation passed out of committee in Minnesota. In Utah, a bill that would facilitate the voter registration process for voters who are moving or experiencing homelessness passed the first chamber. A Republican member of the Mississippi legislature introduced a bill that would create online voter registration.

Looking Ahead: An Oregon bill that would allow all citizens to vote, including those who are currently incarcerated, has its first hearing scheduled this Thursday, January 26. Secretaries of state in Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, and Oregon all laid out their legislative priorities for 2023.

Here are the details:

Voting restoration clears first hurdles in Minnesota. Minnesota S.B. 26 and H.B. 28 each passed out their respective first committees last Tuesday, January 17. The bills would restore the right to vote to persons convicted of a felony immediately upon release from incarceration. Under current law, Minnesotans convicted of felonies cannot vote until they have completed their terms of probation and parole. Another bill, H.B. 110, which would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, even if they will not be 18 at the time of the next election, also cleared its first committee.

Utah legislation to facilitate voter registration passes out of the Senate. The Utah Senate advanced S.B. 17, which would facilitate voter registration for people who are moving or experiencing homelessness. The bill would also make it easier for military and overseas voters to cast their mail ballots. The bill now moves on to the House for further consideration.

Arizona legislature continues to introduce legislation restricting voting access. In 2022 and 2021, the Arizona legislature considered nearly 100 restrictive election law bills. The trend appears to be continuing in 2023, with the state legislature having already introduced 14 restrictive bills, including S.B. 1170, which would restrict drop boxes, and S.B. 1135, which would prohibit counties from offering in-person voting at vote centers during the weekend before Election Day or on the Monday before, as well as create new restrictions for voters returning mail ballots on Election Day. More extreme bills would end no-excuse mail voting and in-person early voting. It’s not all bad news in Arizona though: Republican-introduced S.B. 1178 would eliminate the requirement that in-person early ballots be verified via a signature match, since those voters already must show ID documentation to receive the ballot.

Mississippi bill would create online voter registration. Mississippi State Senator Kevin Blackwell, a Republican, introduced a bill that would direct the secretary of state to establish an online voter registration system for residents with Department of Public Safety-issued ID cards. Mississippi is currently one of only seven states without an online registration system or a plan to implement one.

West Virginia bill would restore voting rights post-incarceration. A bill introduced by Republican State Senator Glenn Jeffries would restore voting rights to individuals disenfranchised due to felony convictions who are on probation or parole. If enacted, West Virginia would join 21 states where voting rights are automatically restored to disenfranchised individuals upon release from incarceration.

North Carolina lawmakers file petition to rehear voter ID case. Republican legislators in North Carolina petitioned the state’s supreme court, which changed composition on January 1 of this year, to rehear a case decided in December in which the court found the state’s 2018 voter ID law violated the state’s constitution because it was “enacted with discriminatory intent to disproportionately disenfranchise and burden African-American voters in North Carolina.”Secretaries of state call on lawmakers to enact a variety of policies as legislative sessions open. Secretaries of state in a number of states are calling for various changes to their states election laws as legislatures begin to meet. For example, newly-elected Connecticut Secretary of State Stephanie Thomas presented the legislature with her recommendations for early voting, calling for a 10-day voting period including two weekends and night and weekend hours, and full funding for its implementation. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger submitted a budget request seeking more than $9 million in new spending, asking the legislature to fund a new mail ballot tracking system, new equipment to speed up the in-person voting process, new software for validating voter addresses, and the hiring of additional investigators, among other line items. A few weeks ago, Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams called on the legislature to establish minimum requirements for early voting locations in each county – and just last week Kentucky State Board of Elections (which Adams chairs) rejected an early voting plan submitted by Jefferson County for an upcoming special election, citing an insufficient number of early voting locations. Longtime Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin named establishing same-day voter registration as a top priority for his record eighth term.

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