The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, March 13

by Liz Avore

March 13, 2023

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Today is Monday, March 13. We are tracking 1,516 bills so far this session across all 50 states, with 335 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 724 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: An Idaho bill prohibiting the use of student ID cards as a form of voter ID cleared the second chamber. Florida, Missouri, and West Virginia all announced that they are ending their participation in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). The Arizona Senate passed a bill that would effectively ban electronic tabulators, requiring election officials to count all ballots by hand. In Mississippi, bills that would remove eligible voters from the registration list, prohibit people from returning mail ballots for their friends and neighbors, and increase criminal penalties for election crimes all passed their second chamber.

The Good News: In New Mexico, the legislature passed an omnibus bill that, if signed by the governor, will restore voting rights to citizens with past felony convictions and improve the state’s mail voting, same-day registration, and automatic voter registration systems. The Arizona Senate passed a bill that would remove the requirement that election officials verify the signatures of ballots that have already been verified via in-person voter ID. Washington advanced legislation to better facilitate the state’s voting rights act. Hawaii’s Senate passed a bill to improve its automatic voter registration system. In Vermont, the House passed legislation that would improve access for voters with disabilities and overseas voters.

Looking Ahead: The Texas Senate will likely vote on S.B. 2 this week. The bill would raise the penalty for voting while ineligible, while expanding the scope of the crime beyond the court’s interpretation of the current statute.

Here are the details:

New Mexico sends omnibus voting-rights protection bill to governor. The New Mexico legislature passed a wide-ranging omnibus elections bill, H.B. 4. The bill would restore the voting rights of citizens with past felony convictions upon release from incarceration, create a permanent mail voter list, expand same-day voter registration and automatic voter registration, and facilitate electoral participation for indigenous voters, among many other changes.

Idaho passes a bill to prohibit the use of student ID cards as voter ID, and expands its ban on accepting private funding for election administration. Under existing law, a voter in Idaho may present a current student photo ID card from an Idaho high school, university, college, or technical school as proof of identification when appearing to vote. H.B. 124, which just cleared both chambers and is now on the governor’s desk, would prohibit the use of student IDs to vote. Also last week, Governor Brad Little signed H.B. 11 which expands a prohibition passed in 2021 on using private money for election administration. Since the start of the 2021 legislative year, 24 states have enacted legislation that limits the ability of election officials to accept grant money for election administration.

States announce withdrawals from multi-state voter registration system. The secretaries of state from Florida, Missouri, and West Virginia announced that they are ending their states’ participation in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). This follows withdrawals from Alabama and Louisiana in the last year. ERIC, which a majority of states continue to be members of, helps states keep their voter registration databases up to date by sharing registration information across member states.

Arizona Senate passes several elections bills, including legislation effectively banning electronic tabulators. The Arizona Senate passed a number of election bills last week. S.B. 1074 would require that all election equipment, including ballot tabulators, be 100% made in America. According to testimony on behalf of Arizona’s counties, such equipment does not exist, meaning counties would be forced to hand count all ballots for all elections until such equipment did exist. The Senate also passed S.B. 1178, which would improve election administration by removing the requirement that election officials perform signature verification on ballots which have already been verified through voter ID documentation. Other bills that advanced last week would change the process of dropping off a mail ballot on or near Election Day, change signature matching for mail ballots, do a man vs. machine ballot tabulating test, and make other changes to Arizona election law.

In Mississippi, three restrictive bills pass their second chambers. Last week, the Mississippi Senate passed H.B. 1310, which would make non-voting a reason to start the process for removing voters from the registration list. In most states, non-voting can never trigger a removal process. H.B. 1310 now goes to conference because it differs significantly from the version passed by the House, which included voting rights restoration for some citizens and a pilot program for risk-limiting audits. The Senate also passed H.B. 400, which would increase the maximum penalties for a variety of election crimes. The increases are less severe than in the version of the bill passed by the House, so the bill heads to conference to resolve the differences. Meanwhile the House passed S.B. 2358, which would prohibit friends and neighbors from mailing, or otherwise handling, another voter’s completed mail ballot. The bill creates a criminal penalty of up to a year in county jail, a $3000 fine, or both, for violations of this prohibition, and includes an exception for relatives, household members, and caregivers. If the House concurs with the non-substantive Senate amendments, it will go to the governor.

Washington advances legislation to improve its state voting rights act. Washington’s House passed H.B. 1048, which facilitates the enforcement of the state’s voting rights act. The bill would expand and clarify who could enforce the act, and make it easier to recover some costs associated with enforcement.

Hawaii Senate passed legislation to improve automatic voter registration. Hawaii’s Senate passed S.B. 383, which would make voter registration at the DMV fully automatic. Under the bill, eligible voters would be registered during DMV transactions unless they opt out.

Oklahoma advances several, mostly restrictive, elections bills. The Oklahoma legislature moved several bills in the past week. Bills passing their first chamber included H.B. 2024, which imposes new requirements on notaries public who notarize affidavits for a mail ballot; H.B. 1768, which increases documentation requirements for registration applicants, H.B. 1415, which could potentially bifurcate state and federal elections; and S.B. 410, which addresses electioneering.

Vermont House passes legislation to improve access for voters with disabilities and overseas voters. The Vermont House of Representatives passed H.B. 429, which would allow voters with disabilities and overseas voters to return their ballots electronically. Currently, such voters may receive their ballots electronically but must print them out and return hard copies.

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