The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Tuesday, June 20

by Liz Avore

June 20, 2023

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Today is Tuesday, June 20. We are tracking 1,860 bills so far this session across all 50 states, with 394 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 886 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: The Texas governor signed several election bills into law, including oneraising the penalty for the offense of illegal voting from a misdemeanor to a felony. This reverses a change made by the legislature in 2021.

The Good News: The governor of Texas also signed legislation expanding early voting in smaller counties and facilitating voting by people with disabilities. Nevada enacted legislation expanding voting access for Indigenous Peoples and eligible incarcerated citizens. The Rhode Island Legislature sent a bill to the governor allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primaries, provided they will be 18 by the applicable general election. In Michigan, the legislature continues advancing bills providing for Election Day-style early voting, mail ballot drop boxes, a permanent mail voter list, a cure process for defective mail ballots, and an expanded list of acceptable IDs (including more student IDs).

Looking Ahead: Two significant bills are likely to be heard on the North Carolina Senate floor this week. These include S.B. 747, a restrictive omnibus bill that makes many changes to election law, including restrictions to mail voting and same-day registration. The Arizona legislature adjourned until July 31, leaving a pile of bills on the governor’s desk for her to sign or veto. Among those is legislation that would force Maricopa County to hand count ballots.

Here are the details:

Texas governor signs several bills into law, creating additional state oversight over Harris County and felony-level penalties for voting while ineligible. Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed off on several election-related bills last week. Some would facilitate greater state oversight over Harris County – the most populous county in the state, housing the city of Houston. These include S.B. 1750 (eliminates the position of county elections administrator in Harris County) and S.B. 1933 (increases state oversight of Harris County elections). He also signed H.B. 1243, which raises the penalty for the offense of illegal voting from a misdemeanor to a felony. This reverses a change made by the legislature in 2021. Governor Abbott additionally signed legislation that expands voter access, including H.B. 1217 (provides voters in smaller counties the same early voting access as other counties) and S.B. 477 (facilitates voting by persons with disabilities). Other bills that he signed include H.B. 357 (changes the information a voter must supply to access the state’s online ballot tracking tool) and H.B. 5180 (relating to public access to voted ballots). The governor vetoed H.B. 3159, which would have created an electronic system to facilitate voting by individuals with disabilities.

Nevada improves voting access for Indigenous Peoples and incarcerated citizens, makes other changes to voting law. Governor Joe Lombardo signed four significant election bills last week, including A.B. 286 (facilitates voting by eligible incarcerated people) and S.B. 327 (improves Indigenous Peoples’ voting access by requiring counties to provide polling places, early voting locations, and drop boxes on Indigenous lands unless the Tribe opts out). Previous law required Tribes to request such access and allowed counties to refuse to provide it. He also signed S.B. 54 (requires the secretary of state to create an elections procedures manual to help standardize statewide practices and train clerks using it) and A.B. 192 (delays the expansion of automatic voter registration to health care agencies by one year). Meanwhile, Governor Lombardo vetoed a number of other bills. A.B. 246 would have improved language access in all aspects of voting. A.B. 242 would have required tabulator use and additional accessible voting machines at polling places. Lastly, S.B. 443 would have enabled people who lack a Nevada-issued driver’s license or state ID to use the same-day registration process.

Rhode Island sends legislation to the governor that would allow 17-yr-olds to vote in primaries. The Rhode Island Legislature sent the governor H.B. 5055/S.B. 35, which would allow people who are 17 to vote in primaries if they will be 18 by the general election. Lawmakers also passed H.B. 5462/S.B. 742, which aims to improve communication between the Department of State and the State Board of Elections, among other changes. As of Monday, Governor Dan McKee has not taken action on the bills.

Michigan advances bills implementing “Promote the Vote.” The Michigan Legislature continues to advance bills to implement changes made to the state constitution by Ballot Proposition 2 in 2022. Both chambers passed multiple bills, including H.B. 4695 and S.B. 367 (provide for Election Day-style early voting); H.B. 4697 and S.B. 372 (provide for drop boxes for mail ballots and mail ballot applications). H.B. 4699 and S.B. 369 would create permanent mail voter lists, and H.B. 4700 and S.B. 370 would create a cure process for defective mail ballots or mail ballot applications. Each chamber also passed its own version of a bill (H.B. 4698 and S.B. 373) to expand the list of acceptable IDs for election purposes. Both would make more student ID cards acceptable.Arizona governor vetoes one election bill; seven more sit on her desk. Governor Katie Hobbs added another veto to her pile of 15 vetoed elections bills, and has the opportunity to veto (or sign) seven more. Governor Hobbs vetoed H.B. 2722, which would have allowed counties to choose to hand count ballots, as is under consideration in Mohave County. The other seven bills on her desk would create new restrictions for voters dropping off their completed mail ballots after 7 p.m on the Friday before Election Day (S.B. 1595); loosen rules to access voter registration lists and to leave the state’s permanent mail voting list (S.B. 1175); prohibit the use of vote centers instead of precinct-based polling places (S.B. 1596); revise poll watcher rules in multiple ways (S.B. 1598); force Maricopa County to hand count ballots and compare the results to those provided by tabulators (S.B. 1471); make cast vote records public (S.B. 1332); and add language to mail ballot return envelopes urging voters to return their ballot quickly to avoid delaying results (S.B. 1095). The legislature adjourned until July 31. When it returns, it may reconsider sending an additional bill to end the double-verification of in-person early ballots and make other pro-access changes.

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