The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, November 6

by Julie Vanderlee

November 6, 2023

Today is Monday, November 6. We are tracking 1,940 bills so far this session across all 50 states, with 408 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 923 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: Nearly 3,400 Virginia voters were improperly removed from the rolls, according to the governor’s office.

The Good News: The Michigan State Senate adopted several bills that would expand voter registration opportunities. Governor Katie Hobbs of Arizona issued a set of executive orders meant to improve voter access and election administration in next year’s elections. In Wisconsin, a judge temporarily blocked the state senate from removing top election official Meagan Wolfe – however, the speaker of the state assembly announced plans to pursue impeachment.

Looking Ahead: Tomorrow is Election Day, with statewide elections in Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia. We reviewed recent changes to election law in these states and what is at stake for election policy in a September report. A Minnesota judge heard arguments over the constitutionality of a bill that restored voting rights to 55,000 citizens with past felony convictions. The U.S. Senate Rules Committee held a hearing on threats to election workers to consider potential federal responses.

Here are the details:

Michigan Senate passes several bills to improve voter registration in the state. Several election bills, having already passed the Michigan House, were approved by the Senate last week. Among the bills advanced by the Senate were H.B. 4983 (adding new automatic voter registration agencies), H.B. 4569 (permitting 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote), and H.B. 4570 (ensuring voters continue to be able to complete mail ballot applications online). H.B. 4569 and H.B. 4983 will now go back to the House for concurrence with Senate amendments, while H.B. 4570 heads to the governor’s desk.

Arizona governor issues three executive orders and allocates over $2 million in additional funds for 2024 elections. Governor Katie Hobbs announced several executive orders intended to improve voting in Arizona by increasing poll worker training and recruitment, allowing the use of state facilities as voting locations and drop-off sites, and facilitating voter registration. The governor is allocating $2.3 million of the federal coronavirus relief funds Arizona received under the American Rescue Plan Act to fund these measures, including a fellowship program for election workers. The executive orders are a response to newly-released recommendations by the governor’s elections task force established earlier this year.

Virginia reveals that thousands of voter registrations were erroneously canceled. Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration announced that it had identified and reinstated about 3,400 voters whose registrations were improperly canceled, a significant increase from its initial count of roughly 270. This news comes in the midst of early voting for Virginia’s legislative elections, where control of both chambers is at stake. Last month, seven U.S. Senators and Representatives signed a letter urging the U.S. Attorney General to probe possible violations of federal law.

Wisconsin judge rules that the state senate cannot remove the state’s top election official. A Dane County judge recently ruled that lawmakers may not immediately remove Wisconsin Election Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe, who has been a target of election disinformation since 2020, from her post. The state senate held a vote to remove Wolfe last month, but has since acknowledged that the vote was symbolic and had “no legal effect.” Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced plans to move forward with an impeachment of Wolfe after a pressure campaign urged him to do so.

Minnesota court hears arguments in case challenging rights restoration law. Last Monday, a court in Minnesota heard arguments in a challenge to H.B. 28, a bill enacted this session that restores the right to vote to approximately 55,000 Minnesotans. Under the new law, citizens with past felony convictions regain their right to vote immediately upon release from incarceration. Previous law withheld this right until after a person had completed all terms of their sentence, including probation and parole. The lawsuit claims that the state constitution does not allow the legislature to selectively restore voting rights without simultaneously restoring all other civil rights, such as the right to own a firearm. In 25 states and D.C., individuals are either never disenfranchised due to felony convictions, or have their rights restored immediately post-incarceration.

Election administrators testify in front of U.S. Senate committee regarding ongoing threats. Election officials from Arizona, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee testified at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Rules Committee regarding the threats faced by election administrators nationwide since the 2020 election and potential federal responses. Senator Amy Klobuchar, who chairs the committee, has sponsored the Freedom to Vote Act, which includes provisions to protect election officials from threats and harassment, and the Election Worker Protection Act, which would provide funding to states to recruit and train election workers, make safety improvements, and establish safeguards to shield election workers from intimidation and threats.

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