The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, May 15

by Voting Rights Lab

May 15, 2023

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Today is Monday, May 15. We are tracking 1,789 bills so far this session across all 50 states, with 382 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 844 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: Virginia became the eighth state to withdraw from ERIC in the last year. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp line-item vetoed a provision in the state budget that would have allocated $550,000 for electronic poll books statewide. A Texas bill that would allow a wide range of private citizens and partisan actors to demand an investigation into an alleged election irregularity is eligible for final passage.

The Good News: The governor of Minnesota signed legislation creating automatic voter registration and a permanent mail voter list. Washington made its online voter registration system available to more eligible voters. A resolution to put no-excuse mail voting on the ballot passed the Connecticut House; if it passes the Senate, Connecticuters will vote on whether to amend their constitution to allow for no-excuse mail voting in November 2024. The Texas House Elections Committee advanced legislation to improve the state’s mail ballot cure process and improve access for voters with disabilities.

Looking Ahead: There is a lot of action in state legislative chambers today. The Alaska Senate is scheduled to vote on S.B. 138 today, an election omnibus bill that would significantly improve voter access in the state. The Arizona House of Representatives will consider nearly 20 election bills for final passage today. The bills, which the Senate has already passed, include S.B. 1135 (requiring the state to leave ERIC), S.B. 1265 (prohibiting ranked-choice voting), and S.B. 1518 (improving voter access and election administration by ending the double verification of in-person early ballots). Also today, the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee will hear several bills that passed the House, including H.B. 1243 (raising the penalty for illegal voting) and H.B. 5180 (allowing public inspection of voted ballots 61 days after Election Day). On Tuesday, the Texas House is scheduled to take up S.B. 1070 (exploring ERIC alternatives) on the floor.

Here are the details:

Minnesota establishes automatic voter registration and a permanent mail voting list. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed H.B. 3, an omnibus bill that significantly improves voter access in the state. Among its provisions, the bill establishes a system of automatic voter registration in which eligible voters are automatically registered to vote when they apply for a driver’s license, instruction permit, or state identification card at the Department of Public Safety, for medical assistance under a program administered by the commissioner of human services or MinnesotaCare, or for benefits or services from a participating state agency. The bill also creates a permanent mail voter list, allowing voters to sign up to automatically receive a ballot in the mail each election, and facilitates the creation of election materials in languages other than English.

Virginia becomes latest state to withdraw from ERIC. Virginia Elections Commissioner Susan Beals announced that the state will leave the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), an interstate compact for the exchange of voter registration information. Virginia was a founding member of ERIC in 2012, and an appointee in the Office of the Attorney General called the compact beneficial to the state just last year. This makes Virginia the eighth state to leave ERIC in the last year.

Washington improves its online voter registration system. Last week, Governor Jay Inslee signed S.B. 5208, which will enable people to register to vote online using the last four digits of their Social Security number, a Washington Tribal ID, or a driver’s learner’s permit. Previous law only allowed a person registering to vote online to use a driver’s license or state ID number, or a Tribal ID that enables the state to pull a signature from its driver’s license database, which not all Tribal ID do. The law will take effect July 15, 2024.

Georgia governor blocks funds for polling place internet connectivity. Governor Brian Kemp line-item vetoed a provision in the state budget allocating $550,000 for the purchase of a mobile data plan for electronic poll books statewide. Instead, counties will be individually responsible for these plans and their costs.

Texas House Elections advanced a mixed bag of legislation and let other bills die. Last week the Texas House Elections Committee advanced several bills, including S.B. 1039, a concerning proposal which would allow a wide range of citizens participating in an election to trigger an investigation of an alleged election irregularity. The committee also approved legislation that would improve voter access. S.B. 1599 would improve the state’s mail ballot cure and tracking system, allowing voters to correct a defect on their mail ballot envelope (or mail ballot application) online, while S.B. 477 would facilitate voting for citizens with disabilities. Each of these bills already passed the Senate. The next step is for these bills to be heard on the House floor. Many problematic bills originating in the House died last week, as they failed to meet the deadline for consideration by the Senate, including H.B. 3611 (would have prohibited ranked-choice voting); H.B. 2860 (would have created five new crimes related to election administration and posted voter registration lists online); and H.B. 2020 (would have allowed for the state takeover of local election administrators).

Connecticut House adopts no-excuse mail voting resolution. The Connecticut House of Representatives adopted H.J.R. 1, which proposes an amendment to the state’s constitution allowing for no-excuse mail voting. If adopted by the Senate, the proposed amendment would go before the voters at the November 2024 general election. Connecticut is one of only 15 states that does not give all voters the option to vote by mail.

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