The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, February 12th 2024

by Liz Avore

February 12, 2024

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Today is Monday, February 12. We are tracking 1,377 bills so far this session across 43 states, with 245 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 676 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: Voters in Arizona will have less time to correct errors on mail ballot envelopes under a new law. The Alaska House passed a bill that would likely result in more cancellations of valid voter registrations – and more work for election officials. Georgia’s Senate passed a bill that would require an overhaul of election systems the secretary of state warned would be “physically impossible.”

The Good News: A judge in New York dismissed a challenge to the state’s no-excuse mail voting law. Voters in Arizona who cast mail ballots in person and show ID no longer risk having their ballots rejected due to signature comparisons. The Wisconsin Elections Commission issued guidance directing clerks to accept mail ballots with incomplete witness information. The South Dakota Senate passed a bill that would allow tribal ID card numbers to be used on voter registration forms. The Virginia House passed bills that would improve access to in-person voting and protect election officials.

Looking Ahead:

Legislatures convene this week in New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Wyoming. Today, an Arizona committee is hearing 24 bills, including S.B. 1653 (requires the public disclosure of ballot images), S.B. 1375 (requires all paper ballots to have identification numbers), and S.C.R. 1014 (a non-binding resolution asserting that the state legislature has the sole authority to appoint presidential electors).

Tomorrow, a New Hampshire Senate committee will hear S.B. 536 (allows residents to register to vote and cast ballots by mail without a special reason, or excuse) and S.B. 537 (allows processing of mail ballots before Election Day). Also tomorrow, a Missouri House committee will hold a hearing on H.B. 2628, a bill that would give political candidates a cause of action against deepfakes in campaign advertising.

On Wednesday, the Washington Senate will hold a hearing on S.B. 5890, a bill that would help voters correct minor errors on the ballot envelopes.

Here are the details:

Arizona enacts a new law with mixed impact: both temporarily giving voters less time to address mail ballot envelope errors, while also improving the state’s signature verification process.

Governor Katie Hobbs signed into law H.B. 2785, a bill that shortens the window for voters to correct minor issues on their ballot envelopes for major elections until 2026. The new law is a part of a compromise to avoid potential issues with timely certification of results. It also codifies secretary of state guidance on signature verification, and ends signature verification for voters who show ID while casting a mail ballot in person. Additionally, the House passed H.B. 2547, which would ban the use of countywide voting centers. Meanwhile, the Senate passed S.B. 1060, which would both expand the presence of partisan poll watchers and also help protect against potential intimidation by limiting what poll watchers can do. These bills now move to the other chamber for further consideration.

Alaska House passes bill to accelerate voter registration cancellations.

The Alaska House of Representatives passed H.B. 129, a bill that could lead to more cancellations of legitimate voter registrations – and more work for election officials. Under this legislation, not voting or signing a candidate petition for two years would trigger an address confirmation process – meaning that election officials would be required to send address confirmation mailers every midterm election to all voters who only vote in presidential elections. If a voter does not respond to the address confirmation mailing – and does not vote for an additional four years – the bill would require election officials to cancel that voter’s registration. Under current Alaska law, this process is triggered after four – rather than two – years of no election activity. In most states – 28 states and D.C. – non-voting is never a trigger for a removal process. This bill would make Alaska one of only seven states to initiate removal processes due to two or fewer years without voting. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Georgia bill that would require new voting systems and equipment passes Senate.

In Georgia, the Senate passed S.B. 189, a bill that would prohibit tabulation using barcodes or QR codes, which are currently scanned and read by vote counting machines. If enacted, the bill would take effect July 1, despite Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s testimony that the change would be “physically impossible” to implement before the November election. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Virginia House passes a set of bills that would improve voter access and protect election officials.

The Virginia House passed several bills that would improve voter access to polling places and protect the privacy of certain election officials: H.B. 1003 (requires notice of polling place changes to be mailed at least 30 days prior to Election Day, instead of 15 days); H.B. 940 (requires a notice of change in the polling place to be posted at the location last used for that precinct); H.B. 441 (allows all voters with disabilities to cast their ballots outside of the polling place); and H.B. 943 (allows local election officials to keep their addresses confidential).

South Dakota bill allowing the use of tribal ID card numbers on voter registration forms moves forward.

The South Dakota Senate passed S.B. 119, a bill that would allow Native Americans who are members of federally recognized tribes to use tribal ID card numbers on voter registration forms if the tribe has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the secretary of state. The current form requires a valid state driver’s license or non-driver identification number or, if an applicant for registration has neither, the last four digits of their Social Security number. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for further debate.

New York court allows no-excuse mail voting to remain in place.

A judge in New York upheld last year’s Early Mail Voter Act, a law that allows all voters in the state to vote by mail. The challenge was brought by Republican Party groups seeking to keep in place a requirement that voters have a special reason – or excuse – to apply for a mail ballot. New York is currently among 36 states that allow all voters to cast their ballot by mail. The plaintiffs are appealing the ruling.

Wisconsin Elections Commission adopts new guidance on counting ballots with partial witness information.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission issued guidance at a Thursday meeting which would require election officials in the state to accept mail ballot envelopes with incomplete witness address information, as long as the address is discernible. The existing statute – which requires that a mail ballot witness provide their “address” – has led to inconsistent rejection of ballots with incomplete address information across the state. A court had ruled in January that rejecting ballots for incomplete witness address information violated federal law, and a bill recently introduced in the legislature would create more specificity about what information constitutes a complete address.

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