The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, September 18

by Liz Avore

September 18, 2023

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Today is Monday, September 18. We are tracking 1,897 bills so far this session across all 50 states, with 398 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 902 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: Legislation that would reconfigure the North Carolina boards of elections in potentially problematic ways advanced out of committee, and is set to be considered on the House floor tomorrow. The Wisconsin Senate voted to fire the state’s top elections administrator based on groundless conspiracy theories.

The Good News: Michigan launched a new program that will make it harder for abusers to access the home address of domestic violence survivors via public record, including voter registration records. An Arkansas judge dismissed a lawsuit claiming that the state’s voting machines violated state law.

Looking Ahead: A Texas lawsuit challenging the sweeping elections omnibus passed in 2021 is finally coming to trial in federal court this week. In Virginia, early voting begins and mail ballots are sent out Friday, September 22. Candidates in both chambers of the Virginia legislature are on the ballot this year. Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, and Florida – four states that recently left the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) – announced their intention to establish a new process for data sharing, but failed to share many details concerning the logistics, efficacy, or security of the new program.

Here are the details:

Legislation to reconfigure North Carolina board of elections advances. The North Carolina House Rules Committee adopted a substitute to S.B. 749, which would shift appointment authority for the state and county boards of elections from the governor to the legislature and replace odd-numbered boards with even-numbered boards that would be subject to deadlock. The bill is scheduled for consideration by the full House tomorrow, September 19.

Wisconsin Senate votes to remove the state’s top elections administrator. Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate voted to fire Meagan Wolfe, the administrator of the Wisconsin Election Commission, creating doubt as to who will run the 2024 election in the state. It is unclear whether the Senate has the authority to remove Wolfe at this time. She has filed a lawsuit arguing that the vote was improperly held and said that she intends to remain in her position until a court tells her otherwise. Wolfe has been the target of groundless conspiracy theories regarding the 2020 election.

Michigan launches a program to allow domestic violence survivors to keep voter registrations records confidential. The state of Michigan launched a program designed to make it easier for survivors of domestic violence to keep their home address confidential. The program is intended to shield a survivor’s address from their abuser by making it harder to access that information via public record, including voter registration records. Participants in the program are issued a designated legal mailing address they can provide to government agencies, including the Secretary of State, in lieu of using their actual address.

Arkansas judge throws out lawsuit challenging the state’s voting machines. Circuit Judge Tim Fox of Pulaski County, which includes the city of Little Rock, dismissed a lawsuit alleging that the state’s ballot-counting machines did not allow for the verification opportunity required by law. The court determined that the current bar-code based system does comply with the law because voters get printed ballots to cast once they’ve made their choices on the computer system. Under a new state law, counties may opt to use paper ballots instead of electronic voting machines, but counties that do so are responsible for the cost of the paper ballots and electronic tabulators required to tabulate them. The quorum court in Searcy County approved a resolution to move to paper ballots last month. Earlier this year an effort to switch to paper ballots was rejected in Cleburne County.