The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, October 2

by Liz Avore

October 2, 2023

Welcome to The Markup. If you enjoy reading this, please consider sharing this post to get this this valuable information into more hands.

If someone else shared this post with you, and you would like to get these weekly updates straight to your inbox going forward, please subscribe here.

Today is Monday, October 2. We are tracking 1,907 bills so far this session across all 50 states, with 399 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 907 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: A Mississippi law permanently disenfranchising citizens with past felony convictions is back in place, pending a rehearing of a case that found the law unconstitutional. Meanwhile, in Virginia – another of the three states that permanently disenfranchise voters based on past felony convictions – officials may be improperly removing voters from the rolls for probation violations. A 2021 Florida law that was previously found to have racially discriminatory intent will be allowed to stand.

The Good News: Two states expanded voter access in recent weeks. New York enacted no-excuse mail voting, so voters can now vote by mail without needing a special reason. Pennsylvania adopted automatic voter registration, meaning qualifiedresidents will be automatically registered to vote when they obtain a new or renewed driver’s license or ID card at the DMV. The governor of North Carolina vetoed a legislative takeover of the state and county boards of elections.

Looking Ahead: The Arizona secretary of state submitted the 2023 Election Procedures Manual to the governor and attorney general for approval.In the coming weeks, the North Carolina legislature could override the governor’s veto of two bills, one weakening mail ballot access and another giving the legislature increased authority over state and county boards of elections.

Here are the details:

New York becomes the 36th state to allow voters to vote by mail without a special, qualifying reason. Governor Kathy Hochul signed a package of election bills into law on Wednesday, which included S.B. 7394, a bill establishing no-excuse mail voting. Previously, New Yorkers could only vote by mail if they had a special reason – or excuse – for needing to do so. The new law was promptly challenged in court under the state’s constitution in litigation brought by U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik and others.

Pennsylvania becomes the 25th state to implement or enact automatic voter registration. On National Voter Registration Day, Governor Josh Shapiro announced that Pennsylvania implemented automatic voter registration. At Governor Shapiro’s direction, every qualified resident obtaining a new or renewed driver’s license or ID card at the DMV will be automatically registered to vote unless they opt out.

North Carolina governor vetoes legislative takeover of boards of elections. Governor Roy Cooper vetoed S.B. 749, which would give legislative leadership appointment authority over state and county boards of elections. Such authority currently lies with the governor. The bill would also create even-numbered board memberships that could be prone to deadlock over certification of results or designation of early voting locations. The legislative majorities in both chambers are large enough to override gubernatorial vetoes.

Mississippi law permanently disenfranchising citizens with past felony convictions is back in place, pending rehearing by full federal appellate court. In August, a 3-judge panel of a federal appeals court ruled that the Mississippi law permanently disenfranchising citizens convicted of felonies was unconstitutional. Last week, however, the full court agreed to rehear the case, vacating the original decision. The Mississippi law – one of the strictest laws in the nation – is now back in place, meaning citizens convicted of certain felonies permanently lose their right to vote unless their rights are restored by a two-thirds vote of the legislature.

Virginia’s removal of over 10,000 voters from the rolls sparks list maintenance concerns. Voters with past felony convictions may be being wrongfully removed from voter rolls in Virginia. A voter in Arlington County was wrongfully removed for a probation violation. Under state law, only a new felony conviction (or finding of mental incompetence) should trigger removal from the list. Though the wrongful removal was overturned by a judge, the state’s Annual List Maintenance Report shows that over 10,000 voters were removed from voter rolls after having their rights restored, sparking concern that more of those voters may have been incorrectly removed. Virginia is one of only three states in the country with a lifetime ban on voting for those with past felony convictions. Under existing law, a person’s right to vote can only be restored by the governor or by petitioning to the appropriate circuit court judge.

A federal appellate court declines further consideration of a challenge to 2021 Florida law. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it would not permit a rehearing “en banc” before the full court as requested in a case over whether 2021 law discriminates against Black voters. The law placed restrictions on third-party voter registration groups and the use of drop boxes. Earlier this year a three-judge appellate panel, in a 2-1 decision, overturned the district court judge’s ruling that provisions of the law were written with discriminatory intent. This week’s decision by the full court allows the panel’s ruling to remain in place.

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