The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, May 22

by Liz Avore

May 22, 2023

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Today is Monday, May 22. We are tracking 1,808 bills so far this session across all 50 states, with 385 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 855 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: Each chamber of the North Carolina legislature passed budget bills that would prohibit membership in ERIC. Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes complained in the press that the recently-approved state budget does not include sufficient funds for election security. A new law in Montana requires Election Day ballot counting to continue without adjournment until finished. The Louisiana House advanced three bills that would interfere with the administration of elections.

The Good News: In Texas, a new law will provide additional payment to poll workers, and the House passed a bill improving the state’s mail ballot tracking and cure processes. The governor of Washington signed legislation expanding automatic voter registration, and the Arizona governor vetoed legislation that would have banned electronic tabulators that were not 100% sourced, manufactured, and assembled in the United States. The New York Assembly sent a bill to the Senate that would require correctional facilities to give adults being discharged notice of their rights, voter registration applications, and related information. The Louisiana House advanced legislation to facilitate the registration of high school students and citizens with past felony convictions. In Delaware, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow election officials to start processing mail ballots earlier.

Here are the details:

North Carolina budget bills would prohibit ERIC membership. Budget bills, different versions of which were passed by both chambers of the North Carolina legislature, would prohibit the state from joining the Electronic Registration Information Center (“ERIC”) and repeal an appropriation from last year’s budget to fund the state joining the interstate organization. The two chambers’ budgets will now likely go to a conference committee.

Washington expands automatic voter registration. Governor Jay Inslee signed S.B. 5112, which expands automatic voter registration to any state agency that requires individuals to document their U.S. citizenship as part of their non-voting-related transaction. The bill also changes how automatic registration happens at the DMV. Rather than having the opportunity to opt out during the DMV transaction, all voters who are automatically registered will receive a form to opt out at a later date.

Texas governor signs bill providing extra payment to poll workers, while Texas House passes bill to improve mail ballot tracking and cure. In Texas, S.B. 1052 was signed into law, which provides for extra payment for poll workers for the necessary work they must perform before the polls open. The House also passed S.B. 1599, which improves mail ballot tracking and the cure process for defective mail ballot applications and ballots; that bill now heads to the Senate for concurrence. As legislative session winds down in Texas, many controversial elections bills have reached the end of the road by failing to be added to the necessary chamber’s final floor calendars. Bills that have recently died in this way include S.B. 2 (expanding the scope of, and raising the penalty for, people who inadvertently vote while ineligible to do so), S.B. 990 (eliminating the countywide polling place program), and S.B. 1993 (granting the secretary of state authority to order a new election in the state’s most populous county under certain circumstances).

Arizona governor vetoes three elections bills, signs budget including election funding. Last week, Governor Katie Hobbs vetoed H.B. 2613, which would have required vote recording and tabulating equipment purchased on or after January 1, 2028 to be 100% sourced, manufactured, and assembled in the United States. She also vetoed H.B. 2305, which would have increased the ability of political parties to observe the verification of mail ballot signatures and imposed new ballot-handling and record-keeping requirements; and H.B. 2308, which would have prohibited the secretary of state from personally performing any aspect of election operations for any election in which they are a candidate on the ballot, except for the constitutional duty to certify the statewide canvass. Governor Hobbs did sign the budget into law, which included the elections budget for Secretary of State Adrian Fontes. Fontes has complained in the press that the budget does not include sufficient funds for security.

Delaware advances bill allowing more time for ballot processing. The Delaware House of Representatives passed H.B. 148, which would allow officials to begin verifying mail ballots as they are received beginning 30 days before Election Day, rather than the Friday before Election Day as allowed under existing law. Since January 2021, 15 states have enacted bills allowing more time for processing of mail ballots.

Montana changes timing for vote counting and clarifies DMV data authority in voter registration verification. Last week, Governor Gianforte signed H.B. 196 and H.B. 754 into law. H.B. 196 requires Election Day ballot counting to continue without adjournment until finished, and requires new results reporting. H.B. 754 expressly allows county government elections officials verifying voter registration information to gain access to individuals’ DMV records. As part of that access, election officials would be granted access only to the last four digits of an applicant’s Social Security number.

DATA Act advances in Ohio. The Ohio Senate passed S.B. 71, which would create the office of data analytics and archives in the office of the secretary of state. The bill aims to standardize the information required to be in the statewide voter registration database for all voters by requiring specific information to be entered for each voter. The bill also would declare all information in voter registration forms and in the statewide voter registration database to be public record, with some exceptions. The bill now moves to the House for further consideration.

New York Senate and Assembly advance one election bill each. Last week, the New York Assembly sent A.B. 4009 to the Senate. The bill would require correctional facilities to give adults being discharged notice of their rights, voter registration applications, and related information. Meanwhile, the Senate passed S.B. 5537, which would allow local boards of elections to offer county-wide (or in New York city, city-wide) polling places on Election Day. They could be offered either in addition to, or instead of, traditional polling places. Before changing in-person voting from a precinct-based model to a vote center model, the local board of elections would be required to receive State Board of Elections approval for their vote center plan.

Louisiana House advances legislation to improve voter access and interfere with election administration. Louisiana, which started its legislative session later than most states, has finally started moving some elections bills forward. The House advanced two bills that would improve voter access: H.B. 396, which would simplify the voter registration process for citizens previously imprisoned for a felony conviction; and H.B. 490, which would facilitate the registration of high school students. It also advanced three bills that would interfere with election administration: H.B. 260, which would impose strict new requirements on election officials with respect to federal elections directives, guidance, and funds; H.B. 311, which proposes a constitutional amendment prohibiting the use of foreign or nongovernmental funding for an election; and H.B. 646, which would require the Department of State to conduct a canvass of registered voters (in addition to that already required of each voter registrar).

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