The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, October 16

by Liz Avore

October 16, 2023

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Today is Monday, October 16. We are tracking 1,920 bills so far this session across all 50 states, with 407 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 908 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: Voters in Louisiana approved a constitutional amendment limiting the types of funding for elections. Wisconsin legislators introduced a bill that would require that the state leave ERIC.

The Good News: California enacted several laws that expand voter access for mail voters and voters with disabilities.

Looking Ahead: Members of Congress called for an investigation into Virginia’s improper removal of hundreds of voters from the state’s rolls. A new North Carolina law faces a legal challenge, and a lawsuit challenging Idaho’s voter ID law moved forward.

Here are the details:

California enacts package of election bills. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed several bills that expand voter access into law last week. These bills include A.B. 545 (improves access to in-person voting for voters with disabilities); S.B. 77 (ensures election officials notify voters by phone, text, or email of any deficiencies with their mail ballot envelope); A.B. 626 (allows voters to bring mail ballots to polling places without an envelope); and A.B. 398 (changes the process for obtaining a replacement mail ballot). He also signed bills to increase election security, including A.B. 1539 (makes it a crime to vote, or attempt to vote, in both California and another state in elections held on the same day) and S.B. 485 (expands and clarifies crimes relating to election interference and voter intimidation).

Louisiana voters approve a constitutional amendment barring certain types of election funding. Voters in Louisiana approved a constitutional amendment that prohibits all funds, goods, or services originating from a foreign government or nongovernmental source from being used to conduct an election, unless specifically provided for in statute. At least 37 states have introduced legislation in the past three years that would impose restrictions on the use of grant money to run an election, and 27 of those states have enacted at least one bill to impose such a restriction.

Wisconsin introduces bill to leave ERIC. In Wisconsin, newly-introduced A.B. 490 would require the state to terminate its relationship with the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), an interstate compact under which member states share voter registration information to prevent duplicate registrations. ERIC has been the subject of widespread attacks from conspiracy theorists, and several states have already left the compact in the past year. If the bill were to become law, it would also prohibit the state from rejoining ERIC in the future.

Members of Congress call for investigation into improper voter removals in Virginia. Members of Virginia’s U.S. congressional delegation, including both of the state’s U.S. senators, called on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to open an investigation into the state’s improper removal of hundreds of voters from the state’s voter rolls. The impacted voters were previously disenfranchised due to felony convictions, then had their rights restored before their registrations were improperly canceled due to probation violations. Virginia will hold elections for its narrowly-divided legislature next month.

New North Carolina law draws legal challenge. Shortly after the North Carolina legislature voted to override Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of S.B. 747, two separate lawsuits were filed in federal court challenging the new law. These suits seek to invalidate several provisions, including one that requires election officials to discard ballots that are mailed on or before Election Day, if they are received after Election Day. Other challenged provisions add additional burdens on voters who register to vote at early voting locations – and make it more likely that their ballots will be discarded. Plaintiffs are also challenging parts of the new law that empower poll workers in ways that could result in voter intimidation.

Lawsuit challenging Idaho voter ID changes moves forward. A federal judge denied the state of Idaho’s motion to dismissa lawsuit challenging H.B. 124 and H.B. 340, passed by the state legislature this year. H.B. 124 removes a student ID card issued by an Idaho high school or institution of higher education as a form of acceptable voter ID, and H.B. 340, among other changes, imposes different ID requirements on new registrants than voters already registered. The plaintiffs allege discriminatory intent and violations of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection.

Georgia judge denies request to block 2021 law from going into effect. U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee denied plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction to temporarily block five provisions of 2021 S.B. 202 that plaintiffs claim disproportionately impact Black voters.

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