The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, March 4

by Liz Avore

March 4, 2024

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Today is Monday, March 4. We are tracking 1,615 bills so far this session across 43 states and D.C., with 286 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 816 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: The Arizona Senate passed a bill that would eliminate the option to vote by mail or in person prior to Election Day for most voters. A Senate committee in Mississippi advanced a bill that would require officials to reject mail ballots with timely postmarks if they are received after Election Day. The Wyoming Senate passed a bill that would prohibit community organizations from distributing mail ballot applications. Wisconsin legislative leaders revived efforts to remove the state’s top election official. An Arizona law directing county officials to investigate registered voters who have not provided documentary proof of citizenship was upheld by a federal court.

The Good News: The Virginia legislature sent a package of bills improving voting access and protecting election official confidentiality to the governor’s desk. A Mississippi House committee advanced a bill that would establish automatic restoration of voting rights for some citizens with past felony convictions. The West Virginia House passed a bill codifying and improving the state’s online system for mail ballot and application tracking. The Arizona House passed a bill allowing military families to serve as poll workers. A federal court in Arizona struck down a requirement that voters provide their country of birth and documentary proof of residence when registering.

Looking Ahead:

Today, the Arizona Senate Elections Committee will hear H.B. 2547 (eliminates in-person early voting and prohibits countywide vote centers); H.B. 2852 (requires the state to leave ERIC); and H.B. 2404 (prohibits the mailing of registration cards out of state, including to eligible residents temporarily residing elsewhere); and other elections bills. The New York Senate will consider an amendment to the state constitution that would allow voter registration up to, and on, Election Day.

Tomorrow, the Michigan House will consider H.B. 4594 (requires the secretary of state to maintain an online system voters can use to track mail ballots and ballot applications) and H.B. 4534 (requires corrections officials to provide residents in state prisons with information about voting eligibility, registration, and voting by mail upon release from incarceration).

Legislatures in Florida, Virginia, and West Virginia will adjourn this week.

Here are the details:

Virginia legislature sends bills improving voting access and protecting election worker confidentiality to the governor.

In Virginia, the legislature passed legislation that would improve ballot access for incarcerated voters, voters who speak a language other than English, and voters with disabilities. Governor Glenn Youngkin will now sign or veto H.B. 1330 (requires detention facilities to provide incarcerated voters who are registered to vote with the means and opportunity to submit timely mail ballot applications and mail ballots); H.B. 989 (requires the Department of Elections to provide certain voting information on its website and translate it into any language spoken by a language minority group covered by the state); and S.B. 605 (expands availability of curbside voting to include voters with non-physical disabilities). Governor Youngkin will also consider H.B. 943, which would allow election officials to keep their addresses confidential.

Arizona House passes bill that would eliminate early voting and no-excuse mail voting, as well as one that would allow military families to serve as poll workers.

The Arizona House passed H.B. 2876, a bill that would eliminate in-person early voting, severely limit who can vote by mail, and bar counties from establishing countywide vote centers. This is an extreme proposal: only four states do not give all voters the option of voting in person prior to Election Day. The bill would also give voters less time to correct minor errors on ballot envelopes, moving the deadline to do so from five days after an election to two days after. In better news, the Arizona House also passed H.B. 2765, a bill that would allow active duty military and their family members to serve as poll workers regardless of whether they are registered to vote in the state, with bipartisan support. Both bills now head to the Senate for consideration.

A House committee in Mississippi advances a bill that would restore voting rights for some citizens with past felony convictions, while a Senate committee advances a bill that risks legitimate voters’ mail ballots being discarded.

In Mississippi, the House Constitution Committee voted unanimously to advance H.B. 1609, a bill that would establish automatic restoration of voting rights for citizens convicted of non-violent felonies after they have completed their sentences and completed a five-year waiting period. Mississippi is currently one of only three states that never automatically restores the voting rights of citizens disenfranchised due to criminal convictions. Meanwhile, the Senate Elections Committee voted to advance S.B. 2579, a bill that would require officials to toss out ballots with timely postmarks that are received after Election Day. Under current law – which was enacted with bipartisan support – ballots received within five business days of Election Day are counted as long as they were postmarked on or before Election Day. Mississippi is among 18 states that use postmark deadlines to ensure timely mailed ballots are counted.

West Virginia bill to codify and improve mail ballot tracking advances.

The West Virginia House of Representatives passed H.B. 5623, a bill that would require the secretary of state to provide online tracking of mail ballots and mail ballot applications. Mail ballot tracking is currently available in West Virginia – as it is in nearly every state – but is not required by law. The bill expands on the existing state system by permitting voters to track mail ballot applications – rather than just the ballots themselves – and receive information on how to resolve any issues with a rejected application. The bill now moves to the Senate for further consideration.

Wyoming Senate passes bill to limit third-party distribution of mail ballot applications.

In Wyoming, the state Senate passed S.B. 97, which would prohibit anyone who is not an election official from sending an unsolicited application for a mail ballot to a prospective voter. In recent years, several states have enacted similar bills that limit third parties’ ability to assist voters in applying for a mail ballot. Others have gone a step further by prohibiting proactive mailing of applications, even by election officials. The Wyoming House now receives the bill for consideration, but has a limited amount of time to act before the legislature adjourns this week.

Federal court strikes down portions of a 2022 Arizona law requiring documentary proof of residency to register to vote and requiring voters to provide their country of birth, while upholding investigations of voters who have not provided documentary proof of citizenship.

A federal judge held that two federal laws – the Civil Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act – prohibit Arizona from requiring potential voters to provide documentary proof of residency to register to vote in federal elections. The court also determined that federal law precluded Arizona from requiring potential voters to provide their country of birth on the voter registration form. It also found that Arizona could not subject U.S. citizens to additional verification processes simply because they were naturalized U.S. citizens. A requirement that voters provide documentary proof of citizenship in order to vote for U.S. president and to vote by mail was struck down at the summary judgment stage of this litigation in September of last year, consistent with a determination in a similar case in Kansas arising out of a 2011 law. The court did, however, uphold some challenged provisions of the 2022 Arizona laws in question – H.B. 2492 and H.B. 2243. These provisions direct county officials to investigate the citizenship status of voters who have not provided documentary proof of citizenship, and require those registered voters who are determined by election officials to not be U.S. citizens to provide documentary proof of citizenship.

Wisconsin legislators revive attempt to remove the state’s top election official.

Republican legislative leaders announced that they plan to appeal the recent ruling allowing the state’s top election official, Meagan Wolfe, to remain in her position. In January, a Dane County judge ruled that Senate Republicans do not have the authority to remove or replace the Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator. Wolfe has been the target of baseless conspiracy theories regarding the 2020 election.

Federal court strikes down discriminatory provision of Florida law restricting voter registration efforts.

A federal court issued a summary judgment order striking down a portion of Florida’s S.B. 7050, which passed last year. The provision in question would require any person collecting or handling voter registration forms for a voter registration organization to be a U.S. citizen. The court agreed with the plaintiffs that this citizenship requirement discriminates against noncitizens in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. An appeal of the preliminary injunction against enforcement of the provision is currently before the 11th Circuit.

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