The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, February 26 2024

by Liz Avore

February 26, 2024

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Today is Monday, February 26. We are tracking 1,597 bills so far this session across 43 states and D.C., with at least 284 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and at least  802 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: A Delaware court ruled that the state’s in-person early voting and permanent mail voter list violate the state’s constitution. A Georgia Senate committee passed a bill that would end automatic voter registration at DMVs in the state. The Arizona legislature advanced a number of election-related bills, including bills that would make it easier to contest election results; require the state to leave ERIC; require counties to make a drastic shift from the currently used vote center model for in-person voting; and give officials new discretion to place voters on inactive status. The Kentucky House passed a bill that would require the state to leave ERIC.

The Good News: Lawmakers in Mississippi introduced a bill to establish in-person early voting. Bills to join ERIC advanced in Virginia and Hawaii.

Looking Ahead: Legislatures in Georgia, Utah, and West Virginia have crossover deadlines this week, meaning bills must have passed at least one chamber to remain alive for consideration this session. Today, the West Virginia House of Representatives is considering H.B. 5565, a bill that would give photo IDs to citizens upon release from incarceration. Tomorrow, the New York Senate will hold a hearing on a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the legislature to establish Election Day registration.

On Wednesday, the Arizona House Municipal Oversight & Elections Committee will hear bills that would expand the presence of poll observers and challengers (S.B. 1060) and require counties to make a disruptive shift to precinct-based polling places (S.B. 1286). Also on Wednesday, the Alabama House Constitution, Campaigns, and Elections Committee will hear S.B. 1, a bill passed by the Senate that would criminalize assisting voters in applying for mail ballots, and the Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee will hear a bill that would remove the governor’s authority to appoint the commissioner of elections, instead making the commissioner appointed by a vote of five of seven members of the State Board of Elections.

Here are the details:

Delaware judge rules that in-person early voting and the permanent mail voter list violate the state’s constitution.

A Delaware Superior Court judge ruled on Friday that two state laws violate the state constitution: a 2018 law allowing in-person early voting and a 2010 law that enables certain voters to join a  permanent mail voter list. In 2022, the state’s supreme court struck down a law establishing no-excuse mail voting on similar grounds. While in place, this ruling makes Delaware one of only four states without in-person early voting. The state has not yet said whether they will appeal the ruling.

Mississippi Senators introduce a bill that would establish in-person early voting, while the House passes legislation to make county election administrator roles non-partisan.

State Senators in Mississippi introduced S.B. 2580, a bill that would give all voters the option of voting early in person for the first time, while moving some mail voting deadlines earlier. Mississippi is one of only four states – newly including Delaware as a result of a judicial ruling this week – that does not offer in-person early voting. Additionally, the Mississippi House passed a bill that would make the role of county election commissioner a non-partisan office and prohibit candidates for the position from campaigning based on party affiliation. That bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Georgia Senate committee advances bill that would end automatic voter registration.

In Georgia, the Senate Ethics Committee voted to pass S.B. 221, a bill that would end the automatic voter registration in the state. Under current Georgia law, eligible residents are automatically registered to vote during Department of Driver Services transactions such as applying for or renewing a driver’s license, unless they opt out. The proposed legislation would require residents to affirmatively opt into registration in order to have their license application serve as a voter registration application. Georgia is one of 25 states that offers or is in the process of implementing automatic voter registration. Since the process was established in 2016, the state has seen its share of active registered voters rise from 78% of the eligible population to 98%. The bill will now be considered by the full Senate.

Arizona, Kentucky, Hawaii, and Virginia consider ERIC membership.

Four states saw bills related to the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) pass at least one legislative chamber last week. The upper chambers in Virginia (S.B. 606) and Hawaii (S.B. 2240) passed bills that would require the states to join the consortium. Meanwhile, the Kentucky House (H.B. 44) and Arizona House (H.B. 2852) passed bills that would require those states to leave ERIC. ERIC has faced a tumultuous year in which multiple states, including Virginia, departed ERIC and struggled to replicate its benefits. The Virginia bill now goes to Governor Glenn Youngkin to sign or veto, while the Arizona, Kentucky, and Hawaii bills will go to the second legislative chamber for consideration.

Virginia bill protecting voters against erroneous registration cancellations passes second legislative chamber.

The Virginia Senate passed S.B. 196, a bill that would require that election officials ensure a proper match between datasets used for voter maintenance and a voter’s registration. Under this legislation, the state would be prohibited from canceling a voter’s registration based on data received from another state or from another government or commercial list if the data file did not include a unique identifier for each individual such as a full Social Security number, DMV number, or other number that could be reliably linked to a single person. The bill now goes to Governor Glenn Youngkin to sign or veto.

Arizona bills that would make it easier to contest the results of an election, cause an unworkable disruption to the vote center model for in-person voting, and risk voters’ active status pass chambers.

Last week, the Arizona Senate advanced S.B. 1286, a bill that would require counties to move away from the current model of countywide vote centers. Opponents have expressed concern over the number of election workers that would be required to staff thousands of new precinct-based polling places. Meanwhile, the Arizona House passed H.B. 2472, which would expand the grounds for contesting election results and allow expanded discovery during such contests. The Arizona House also passed H.B. 2405, which would grant county recorders discretion to place a voter’s registration on inactive status if they receive information providing reasonable cause to believe that the registration is incorrect or fraudulent without defining what would constitute reasonable cause. Voters on inactive status will not receive mail ballots, are required to cast provisional ballots if they appear in person, and will have their registration canceled if they do not vote within four years of being on inactive status. These bills now advance to their second chamber for consideration.

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