The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, January 29th 2024

by Liz Avore

January 29, 2024

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Today is Monday, January 29. We are tracking 1199 bills so far this session across 40 states, with 206 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 608 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: A bill barring the use of student IDs for voting advanced in Kentucky. A Georgia Senate committee approved a bill that, if enacted, would remove the secretary of state from the State Elections Board and allow the legislature to investigate their office.

The Good News: A bill that would help ensure that mail ballots cast by eligible voters are counted passed the Washington Senate. The South Dakota Senate advanced a bill that will make it easier for new residents to register to vote. The Missouri House heard a bill that would restore voting rights to citizens with past felony convictions upon release from prison. An Arizona bill placing restrictions on poll watchers passed a Senate committee.

Looking Ahead: The Oklahoma legislature convenes today for its 2024 session. Tomorrow, January 30, the Georgia House of Representatives’ Governmental Affairs Committee will hear H.B. 974 (establishing a statewide system to post scanned images of paper ballots), H.B. 975 (prohibiting QR codes, bar codes, and other machine codes on ballots), and H.B. 977 (expanding the elections subject to risk-limiting audits). On Wednesday, the Arizona House Municipal Oversight & Elections Committee will hear H.B. 2482, a bill that would require sending text and email notifications to voters when their registration record changes.

Here are the details:

Washington bill to ensure mail ballots are not rejected due to minor errors passed the Senate.

The Washington Senate passed a bill (S.B. 5890) that would require officials to reach out to alert voters by email, phone, or test message if their ballot is flagged for possible rejection. The bill would also direct the secretary of state to establish statewide standards for signature matching and allow election officials to count ballots if a voter’s name change results in a signature mismatch but the handwriting is clearly the same.

South Dakota Senate passes a trio of bills, including one that would make it easier for new residents to register to vote.

Several bills passed their first chamber of the South Dakota legislature last week: S.B. 17 (repealing a 30-day residency requirement for voter registration adopted last year), S.B. 18 (authorizing the secretary of state to share voter registration information with other states in order to identify duplicate registrations), and S.B. 20 (establish a criminal offense for threatening election officials or workers). The bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Arizona bill establishing limits on poll watchers and observers passes committee.

The Arizona Senate’s Committee on Elections advanced a bill that would prohibit poll watchers from approaching an election official’s table “any closer than is necessary” or speaking to voters. The bill would also expand challenger presence to vote centers; allow watchers access to all polling locations in their county; and allow campaigns for federal offices to appoint their own watchers. Under current law, challengers are assigned specific precincts by political parties.

Kentucky Senate committee advances restrictive student ID bill.

A Senate committee in Kentucky advanced a bill – S.B. 80 – that would eliminate student IDs as an accepted form of voter ID. The bill would also prohibit voters without photo ID from using a credit or debit card with their name on it as an alternative form of identification. Secretary of State Michael Adams opposes the bill, cautioning it could put the state’s 2020 photo ID law at risk of being struck down by courts. The bill will now go before the entire Senate for consideration. Last year, Idaho enacted a similar bill, prohibiting the use of student IDs for voting in that state. For more on this topic, check out our March 2023 fact sheet on Voting with Student IDs.

Georgia bill to remove the secretary of state from the State Election Board advances out of committee amid questions regarding its constitutionality.

A bill authorizing the State Election Board to investigate the secretary of state and remove them as a non-voting member of the Board passed the Senate Ethics Committee. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has raised questions about the bill’s constitutionality. This legislation follows Raffensperger’s refusal to interfere with the results of the 2020 election and the enactment of a bill in 2021 that removed the secretary of state as the chair of the State Elections Board and increased the legislature’s influence over election administration.

Florida House subcommittee passes an election worker protection bill.

The Florida House Criminal Justice subcommittee advanced H.B. 721, which would create a felony offense for intimidating, threatening, or harassing an election worker with intent to interfere with their official duties. Existing law does not include any provisions that specifically protect election workers from harassment.

Missouri House committee hears bill on voting rights restoration.

The Missouri House Judiciary Committee held a hearing to consider H.B. 1927 – a bill that would restore the voting rights of people with past felony convictions upon their release from incarceration. Under current law, Missouri citizens cannot vote until they have completed   probation and parole. If enacted, Missouri would join 25 states where citizens with past felony convictions can vote while on probation or parole.

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