The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Tuesday, January 16th

by Liz Avore

January 16, 2024

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Today is Tuesday, January 16. We are tracking 1,000 bills so far this session across 36 states, with 169 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 510 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: A judge in Ohio upheld the state’s strict photo ID requirement, while in Wisconsin a judge found that the use of mobile voting sites violates state law. Meanwhile, bills that would eliminate no-excuse mail voting and in-person early voting were introduced in Florida and Kentucky, respectively.

The Good News: A newly enacted bill will allow 17-year-olds in New Jersey to vote in primary elections if they will turn 18 by the corresponding general election. The New York Senate adopted a package of bills that would require the state to join ERIC, as well as allow for mail ballot drop boxes and portable early voting locations.

Looking Ahead: Sessions convene or resume this week in Alaska, Illinois, Louisiana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin. Hearings are being held this week on Alaska H.B. 129 (reforms list maintenance practices), Florida S.B. 782 (requires each county election board to have members from the state’s two largest political parties), and Missouri H.B. 2140 (expands access to provisional ballots, establishes new protections for election officials, and other administrative changes).

Here are the details:

New Jersey enacts a law allowing some 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections.

Governor Phil Murphy signed into law A.B. 3690, a bill that allows otherwise eligible 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if they will turn 18 by the corresponding general election beginning in 2026. While 13 states have considered similar bills since the start of 2021, Rhode Island was the only state to enact one. New Jersey was already among the 21 states, plus D.C., that allow eligible residents to pre-register to vote beginning at either 16 or 17 years of age.

The New York Senate passes election bills that would improve mail voting, in-person early voting, and voter list maintenance.

The New York State Senate passed a package of election reform bills last week. Among these bills are S.B. 610 (allows mail ballot drop boxes), S.B. 242 (allows portable early voting locations), and S. B. 6173 (requires the state to join an interstate voter list maintenance group such as ERIC). These bills will now move to the Assembly for consideration.

Federal judge upholds Ohio’s strict photo ID law.

A federal judge for the Northern District of Ohio ruled in favor of Secretary of State Frank LaRose by granting summary judgment in a lawsuit that alleged changes imposed by H.B. 458 disenfranchised young, elderly, and Black voters. The 2023 law requires that all voter IDs have a photo – eliminating the use of forms of documentation such as utility bills, bank statements, and university statements. Despite the bill prohibiting the use of broad categories of documentation, the judge stated that the changes were “minor” and did not meaningfully impact any resident’s ability to vote.

Judge finds that a mobile voting van used in Wisconsin did not comply with the law.

A judge in Wisconsin ruled that officials in Racine violated state law when they used a van as a mobile voting site for the 2022 election. The judge found no authority in Wisconsin statute for the use of a mobile voting site and was unpersuaded by arguments that the practice should be allowed because it is not explicitly prohibited.

Florida bill would end no-excuse mail voting.

A state senator in Florida introduced a bill to eliminate no-excuse mail voting and restrict mail voting to individuals who meet limited criteria, including absence from the county, confinement in jail, physical disability, illness, caregiving, and residence in certain medical facilities. Both the Florida house speaker and the senate president have spoken out against the bill. Mail voting is available to all voters without any excuse under current law. Although 27 states have enacted bills restricting mail voting since the 2020 election, no state has implemented a new excuse requirement.  

Kentucky lawmaker introduces bill that would end in-person early voting.

In Kentucky, a state senator introduced a bill that would end the in-person early voting process established by H.B. 574 in 2021, limiting pre-Election Day voting to voters with a qualifying excuse. Only three states do not allow all voters to cast a ballot in person before Election Day. Over 260,000 voters cast early ballots last November, and Secretary of State Michael Adams expressed opposition to the bill. In-person early voting has seen broad bipartisan support in recent years, with states as politically diverse as South Carolina, Missouri, and Connecticut also having adopted it since 2021.

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