The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, March 6

by Liz Avore

March 6, 2023

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Today is Monday, March 6. We are tracking 1,423 bills so far this session, with 321 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 693 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: The Idaho legislature advanced a bill that would eliminate student IDs as a valid form of voter ID.The 23 bills that passed their chamber of origin in Arizona included a number that would restrict voting access and interfere with the nonpartisan administration of elections.

The Good News: Minnesota enacted a law restoring voting rights to citizens with past felony convictions. Some of the bills that advanced in Arizona were significantly improved prior to passing. The Pennsylvania House removed a proposed voter ID requirement from a resolution to amend the constitution. It appears that an elections omnibus bill that would restrict voter access and election administration in Georgia will fail to make the crossover deadline today.

Looking Ahead: The Idaho Senate may vote on legislation eliminating student IDs as a valid form of voter ID today (the bill already passed the House). This week, Arizona committees will begin taking up some of the 23 bills that have passed their original chamber, with at least 15 bills scheduled so far. A voting rights restoration bill will be heard in committee in the Missouri Senate today. The Florida legislative session begins on Tuesday. Two omnibus election bills are scheduled to be heard by the Alaska Senate State Affairs Committee on Tuesday. Friday is the bill introduction deadline in Texas; we typically see many bills introduced in this last week.

Here are the details:

Minnesota enacts a new law restoring voting rights to citizens with past felony convictions. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed H.B. 28, which restores voting rights to citizens with past felony convictions during any period in which they are not incarcerated for the offense. Under previous law, Minnesotans with past felony convictions could not vote until they completed all relevant terms of probation and/or parole. The new law will take effect on July 1 of this year, at which point Minnesota will join 21 other states that restore voting rights immediately upon release from incarceration.

Idaho advances legislation to remove student ID cards from accepted forms for voter ID. H.B. 124 passed out of Senate committee last week and is scheduled for a third reading on the Senate floor today. If enacted, the bill will eliminate student ID cards as valid forms of voter ID. Idaho currently accepts student ID cards as a valid form of voter ID if they include a photo of the student. If H.B. 124 becomes law, remaining forms of acceptable voter ID in Idaho will be permits to carry concealed weapons, driver’s licenses, state ID cards, tribal ID cards that include a photo, and passports.

Arizona passes nearly two dozen election bills through the first chamber, while the state attorney general repurposes Election Integrity Unit to focus on defending voting rights. The Arizona legislature has introduced 82 bills that Voting Rights Lab tracks, and last week passed 23 through the first chamber, including bills that restrict mail voting and create partisan audits of the 2022 election. Notably, the Senate improved three bills before sending them to the House. S.B. 1140 and S.B. 1596 would no longer would prohibit vote centers, and would instead require that counties that opt to provide vote centers on Election Day also open precinct-based polling places. The latter includes a $10 million appropriation to fund compliance with the new requirement. Both bills would also facilitate the siting of polling places at public buildings, such as schools. The Senate also amended S.B. 1170, a bill that bans the use of unmonitored drop boxes, to provide $1 million to help counties meet the new monitoring requirements. Meanwhile, Attorney General Kris Mayes announced she is repurposing the Election Integrity Unit of her office to focus on protecting election officials and defending voting rights instead of investigating voter fraud.

Pennsylvania House removes voter ID requirement from proposed constitutional amendment. Last session, the legislature passed S.B. 106, a bill to amend the state constitution to require that voters show ID to vote in person. To amend the Pennsylvania Constitution, two successive legislatures must pass the same amendment, and then voters can ratify or reject it. This year, the Senate promptly re-introduced and passed the same language from 2022 in this year’s S.B. 1, but last week, the House stripped the voter ID provisions from the resolution before passing it from committee. Unless the provisions are restored or are passed after being reintroduced in a new bill before this legislature adjourns in 2024, the amendment process would need to begin again. Pennsylvania is currently one of 15 states where election officials do not request that voters show an ID to vote in person.

Georgia elections omnibus language fails in committee. Last week, the Georgia Senate Ethics committee amended S.B. 221 to include several restrictions on voting access and election administration, including banning drop boxes, making it easier to file unfounded voter challenges, and erecting barriers to voting for the unhoused population. The bill was heard with irregular procedure and no public text available before the hearing. After passing out of the Senate Ethics Committee, the elections omnibus appears to have died in the Senate Rules Committee, and is now poised to fail to advance before today’s deadline for transmitting legislation from one chamber to another.

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