The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, December 11

by Liz Avore

December 11, 2023

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Today is Monday, December 11. We are tracking 1,980 bills so far this session across all 50 states, with 416 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 944 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact. We are also tracking 35 prefiled bills across 6 states that will be considered in 2024.

The Bad News: Lawmakers in Wisconsin are floating a plan to eliminate the state’s bipartisan Elections Commission and give the state legislature a central role in the running of the state’s elections. A Missouri lawmaker who is likely to run for secretary of state in 2024 just prefiled a bill that would prohibit the use of electronic tabulators, requiring election officials to hand count all ballots.

The Good News: A federal district court in Arkansas allowed a challenge under the Voting Rights Act to move forward, despite an appeals court ruling last week that would prohibit many such challenges.

Looking Ahead: Advocates in Delaware filed a lawsuit to protect the voting rights of eligible incarcerated voters. Members of the U.S. Congress introduced a bill that would end conviction-based disenfranchisement for federal elections.

Here are the details:

Wisconsin legislators continue attacks on the state’s Elections Commission, aiming to give the legislature a central role in election administration. State lawmakers unveiled a proposal that would dissolve the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC), the bipartisan agency that has run elections in the state since 2016, and hand its duties over to the secretary of state and state legislature. Under the proposal, the secretary would be responsible for overseeing elections, but could take no action without approval from the relevant House committee. This proposal comes on the heels of a symbolic resolution advanced by Wisconsin Senate Republicans earlier this year, in which lawmakers expressed no confidence in Meagan Wolfe, the WEC administrator. Wolfe and the Elections Commission have been the subject of groundless accusations of fraud in the 2020 election. Meanwhile, Governor Tony Evers recently vetoed a trio of election bills passed by the legislature.

Delaware advocates file lawsuit to protect ballot access for eligible voters while they are incarcerated. The Prisoners Legal Advocacy Network sued Delaware Governor John Carney, along with the state’s election commissioner and acting director of the Department of Corrections, in order to guarantee access to mail voting for voters who are incarcerated while awaiting trial or for misdemeanor convictions. Under state law, citizens do not lose their right to vote unless they are convicted of a felony.

Missouri bill to mandate hand counts prefiled by lawmaker seeking secretary of state position. As Missouri gears up for its 2024 legislative session, Senator Denny Hoskins – a candidate for secretary of state in 2024 – filed S.B. 917, which would repeal statutes authorizing the use of electronic tabulating equipment. The bill would require most voters to vote by paper ballots that election officials would have to count by hand. A bill containing similar provisions failed in 2023. Studies have shown that counts made through the use of automatic tabulating equipment are more accurate and take significantly less time than hand counts.

U.S. legislators introduce bill to end conviction-based disenfranchisement. Senator Peter Welch and Representative Ayanna Pressley introduced legislation – named the Inclusive Democracy Act – that would guarantee all otherwise eligible citizens the right to vote in federal elections regardless of criminal convictions. Currently, such determinations of voter eligibility are made at the state level. Only Maine, Vermont, and D.C. do not disenfranchise voters for criminal convictions, while 23 states restore voting rights for citizens with past felony convictions immediately after release from incarceration. In 22 states, voting rights are restored after some additional condition is met, while three states never automatically restore voting rights to people with past felony convictions.

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