The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, May 1

by Liz Avore

May 1, 2023

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Today is Monday, May 1. We are tracking 1,759 bills so far this session across all 50 states, with 376 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 831 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: In an unprecedented move, the newly-elected majority of the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed two of its own recent decisions regarding the constitutionality of a 2019 voter ID law and partisan gerrymandering. Montana banned ranked-choice voting. The Florida legislature sent a restrictive voting bill to the governor. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held that Alabama’s law permanently disenfranchising citizens based on certain felony convictions does not violate the U.S. Constitution, despite evidence that the original provisions enacted in 1901 were written with the intent to disenfranchise Black Americans.

The Good News: The Minnesota legislature sent a bill to create automatic voter registration and a permanent mail voting list to the governor’s desk. Maryland passed legislation protecting against improper polling place closures andestablishing a cure process to ensure voters can correct errors on mail ballot envelopes. The Missouri House attached a voting restoration provision to a criminal justice bill prior to passing it. The Texas House passed legislation improving curbside voting and mail ballot tracking.

Looking Ahead: In Connecticut today, the Joint Committee on Appropriations will vote on a bill to create 14 days of in-person early voting. The Alaska Senate State Affairs committee is holding a second hearing tomorrow on S.B. 138, which would create a cure process, eliminate the notary/witness requirement for mail ballots and replace it with signature matching, create comprehensive ballot tracking, and allow people to register to vote through Election Day. The Texas House Elections Committee will be taking on bills passed by the Senate.

Here are the details:

North Carolina Supreme Court reverses decision on 2019 voter ID law and partisan gerrymandering, as well as lower courts’ decision on post-incarceration voting rights. In unprecedented fashion, the newly-elected majority on North Carolina’s supreme court reversed its own December 2022 ruling that a voter ID law enacted in 2019 violated the state constitution. The law had been blocked since its enactment, but will go into effect for the state’s upcoming elections, in which voters will now be required to show a photo ID from a limited list of options when voting in person or include a copy of a photo ID with their mail ballot application. In-person voters who do not have a photo ID due to a “reasonable impediment” may vote a provisional ballot if they submit a form explaining the impediment (e.g., lost or stolen ID, or inability to obtain ID because of lack of transportation, disability or illness, work schedule, or family responsibilities). Mail voters also may cite an inability to produce a physical or electronic copy of an ID as an impediment to complying with the requirement. The court also reversed its own decision from last year finding that partisan gerrymandering violated the state constitution, and reversed lower court decisions finding that citizens with past felony convictions were entitled to vote while on probation or parole.

Minnesota bill creating automatic voter registration and a permanent mail voting list heads to the governor. H.B. 3 passed the Minnesota Senate last week and is now eligible for the governor’s signature. Among its provisions, the bill would create a system of automatic voter registration at multiple state agencies, and would also create a permanent mail voter list to allow voters to sign up to receive a mail ballot each election. Under current law, voters may opt to receive an application for a mail ballot each election, but not the ballot itself.

Montana bans ranked-choice voting. Last week, Governor Greg Gianforte signed H.B. 598 into law, banning the use of ranked-choice voting in elections for federal, state, and local office. He also signed H.B. 335, which clarifies the relationship between inactive voters and the state’s list of voters who have signed up to receive a mail ballot for each election, as well as S.B. 86, which caps the number of voters who may be assigned to a single precinct at 2,500 voters.

Maryland establishes a cure process and protects against improper polling place closures. Governor Wes Moore signed SB 379/H.B. 535, establishing a cure process so voters can correct errors on their mail ballot envelope and have their ballot counted; H.B. 410, which combats polling place closures and establishes a public comment process for proposed polling place changes; S.B. 863, which makes it easier for the state board of elections to remove the state election administrator; and H.B. 1200, which establishes statewide minimum pay for poll workers, with the state covering some costs.

Florida legislature sends another election bill to the governor; federal appellate court reverses lower court finding that 2021 bill was unconstitutional. The Florida legislature passed S.B. 7050 on Friday. Among its provisions, the bill imposes new requirements on supervisors of elections for voter list maintenance and ballot canvassing, prohibits certain volunteers and employees from handling voter registration forms, and further increases penalties when voter registration organizations make unintentional mistakes. Meanwhile, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that Florida’s 2021 election omnibus bill, S.B. 90, was constitutional, reversing the district court.

Missouri House attaches voting rights restoration amendment to criminal justice omnibus. In Missouri, an amendment to restore voting rights to people with past felony convictions was attached to S.B. 186, a criminal justice omnibus bill. The amendment would allow most citizens convicted of a felony to regain their right to vote upon release from incarceration. Under existing law, a person convicted of a felony cannot vote until they complete all relevant terms of probation or parole. The bill now returns to the Senate to determine whether that chamber concurs with the House’s amendments.

Texas House passes legislation to improve access to curbside voting and online ballot tracking. The Texas House passed several bills last week, including H.B. 386, which would improve access to curbside voting for voters with disabilities by requiring polling places to have a designated parking space for curbside voters and clear signage to facilitate the process. H.B. 357 would improve access to the state’s online mail ballot tracking tool by changing the information that a voter is required to provide before access is granted. However, the chamber also passed H.B. 1243, which would reverse a change made by S.B. 1 in 2021 and raise the penalty for the offense of illegal voting back to a felony.

Federal appeals court upholds Alabama felon disenfranchisement regime. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held that Alabama’s law disenfranchising individuals with certain felony convictions does not violate the U.S. Constitution, despite evidence that the original disenfranchisement provisions in the state constitution enacted in 1901 were written with the intent to disenfranchise Black Americans. This ruling upheld a district court ruling in the Middle District of Alabama. Alabama is one of only three states that does not ever automatically restore the voting rights of citizens with past felony convictions.

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