The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, July 31

by Julie Vanderlee

July 31, 2023

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Today is Monday, July 31. We are tracking 1,885 bills so far this session across all 50 states, with 397 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 898 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: Texas announced its resignation from ERIC.

The Good News: A new law in Delaware makes it the 26th state to allow election officials to process mail ballots as they are received. Rhode Island voters can now request a mail ballot through a secure online portal. A federal judge blocked enforcement of a new Mississippi law for violating the federal Voting Rights Act. A federal court denied efforts by a sitting congressman to overturn an Illinois state law allowing voters to mail their completed mail ballots on Election Day. A new program in Alabama encourages attorneys to serve as poll workers by allowing poll worker training and service to count toward their continuing legal education requirements.

Looking Ahead: The Arizona legislature is back in session – and likely to adjourn sine die – today, following the longest session in its history. A draft of the new Arizona Election Procedures Manual is expected to be released this week, followed by a two week public comment period.

Here are the details:

Texas initiates its withdrawal from ERIC. Texas became the ninth state this year to withdraw from the Electronic Registration Information Center, an interstate agreement under which member states share voter registration data. Texas passed S.B. 1070, which will require the secretary of state to create their own version of such a system, or to identify and contract with a private sector data system that can provide such services.

Delaware to allow pre-processing of mail ballots. Governor John Carney signed H.B. 148 into law, allowing election officials to begin processing mail ballots as they are received beginning 30 days before Election Day. Delaware joins 25 other states and D.C. in allowing officials to verify mail ballots as they are received.

Rhode Island launches mail ballot application portal. Last Tuesday, Rhode Island Secretary of State Gregg M. Amore announced the launch of the online mail ballot application portal required by a 2022 law. Rhode Island voters now have the option to securely request a mail ballot online. Voters still have the option to complete a paper application by downloading the form from the secretary of state’s website and printing it out, or by contacting their local board of canvassers and requesting an application be mailed to them.

Federal judge blocks enforcement of strict voter assistance rules in Mississippi. U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate issued an order blocking Mississippi from enforcing S.B. 2358, which would prohibit individuals other than a relative, household member, or caregiver from handling the ballot of another voter. Judge Wingate held that the law violates the federal Voting Rights Act, which guarantees voters with disabilities the right to receive assistance in voting from a person of their choice. The suit was brought on behalf of Disability Rights Mississippi, the League of Women Voters of Mississippi, and three registered voters in the state.

Federal court denies effort by sitting congressman to overturn Illinois state law. Illinois is one of 16 states (and D.C.) where election officials count mail ballots that are postmarked by Election Day and received afterwards. Under Illinois law, the ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and received within two weeks of the close of polls. U.S. Representative Mike Bost (IL-12) and others filed a federal lawsuit last May arguing that the state law violates the federal constitution and federal law. Last Wednesday, the court determined that Bost and his co-plaintiffs do not have standing, or the right to sue, over the issue. The court’s order stated that plaintiffs had “not plausibly alleged that the Ballot Receipt Deadline Statute conflicts with federal law.” A similar challenge remains pending in North Dakota.

Alabama announces a program encouraging attorneys to serve as poll workers. Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen and the Alabama Bar Association announced a program, dubbed “Lawyers for Liberty,” that will allow poll worker training and service to count for one third of an attorney’s annual continuing legal education requirement.

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