The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, March 11 2024

by Liz Avore

March 11, 2024

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Today is Monday, March 11. We are tracking 1,626 bills so far this session across 44 states and D.C., with 288 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 822 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact. As bills across the country remain under consideration, legislative sessions ended for the year last week in Florida, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The Bad News: The Iowa House passed a bill that would ban drop boxes and require officials to toss out mail ballots that don’t arrive prior Election Day. The Arizona Senate advanced a number of House-passed bills through committees, including a bill that would end in-person early voting. The governor of Virginia vetoed a bill that would have had the state rejoin ERIC, an interstate compact meant to ensure accurate voter rolls.

The Good News: The Mississippi House passed a bill to automatically restore the voting rights of some citizens with past felony convictions. The New Hampshire House passed a bill appropriating funds for a portal that would allow residents to register to vote online. The South Carolina House voted to extend early voting hours later in the evening.

Looking Ahead: The Indiana legislature adjourns for the year this week. Today, the Mississippi Senate will consider a bill to establish in-person early voting. Also today, the Arizona Senate Rules Committee hears a bill that would eliminate in-person early voting and a bill that would require the state to leave ERIC, among other bills.

Tomorrow, the Michigan House Committee on Elections will hold a hearing on a bill that would disqualify individuals convicted of certain election offenses from serving on a county or state board of canvassers. Also tomorrow, a New Hampshire House committee will hear a bill authorizing the secretary of state to establish an online voter portal that would allow voter registration and mail ballot requests.

On Wednesday, the Arizona House Municipal Oversight & Elections Committee will hear bills to establish guidelines for poll watchers and observers, require officials to identify and staff an unworkable number of new polling places, establish new equipment testing procedures and new associated felonies, and require disclaimers on certain AI-generated content depicting candidates. On Thursday, the New Hampshire House is expected to vote on a bill to join ERIC.

Here are the details:

Mississippi House passes bill restoring voting rights for citizens with past felony convictions.

The Mississippi House of Representatives passed H.B. 1609, a bill that would restore voting rights to many Mississippians currently disenfranchised due to a past felony conviction. Under the bill, the state would restore voting rights to citizens who had previously been convicted of most types of non-violent felonies five years after release from confinement or five years after the date of conviction – whichever came later. Mississippi is currently one of only three states that never automatically restores voting rights to people with past felony convictions, and it is the only state where disenfranchised citizens must individually apply to have their voting rights restored by the legislature. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Iowa House passes bill restricting mail voting.

The Iowa House passed H.B. 2610, a bill which would make it harder for Iowans to vote by mail. The bill would move the deadline by which election officials must receive a voter’s mail ballot earlier, to the day before Election Day, requiring officials to reject mail ballots received while polls are open on Election Day. Only one state – Louisiana – currently has a deadline this early. The bill would also prohibit ballot return via official drop boxes, requiring return by mail or in person to an election official. The bill now moves to the Senate for further consideration.

New Hampshire bill appropriating funds for an online voter portal voter passes first chamber.

The New Hampshire Senate passed S.B. 453, which would appropriate $450,000 to the Department of State to incorporate new capabilities into the statewide voter registration system. The bill suggests “an election information portal” as one possible use for these funds, but does not mandate it. New Hampshire is one of seven states that requires voter registration but does not offer the option to register electronically. The bill now moves to the House for further consideration.

Arizona advances bills to ban early voting, prohibit membership in ERIC, threaten voter privacy, and more.

Several bills advanced out of the Arizona Senate Committee on Elections this week after being passed by the House. Most notable was H.B. 2547, a bill that would end in-person early voting and prohibit counties from using countywide voting centers on Election Day and during in-person early voting. Only four states currently do not offer in-person early voting. The bill includes unworkable mandates, including the creation of approximately 4,500 new polling places and tens of thousands of new election workers in Maricopa County alone for this year’s elections. The Senate committee also advanced H.B. 2404 (prohibits sending a new or updated voter registration card to an address outside the state unless the voter or their family member is active duty military) and H.B. 2852 (requires Arizona to leave ERIC and not be a member of any other multistate organization that requires the sharing of voter information). These bills will now be considered by the Senate Committee on Rules. Meanwhile, the full Senate passed S.B. 1653, a bill that would require the secretary of state to post online ballot images and lists of voters’ personal information, including name, address, birth year, after each election. This bill now heads to the House for consideration. The House passed a bill that would permit partisan legislators to inspect any voting equipment at any time. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Virginia governor vetoes bill to rejoin ERIC and suggests amendments to another voter list maintenance bill.

Governor Glenn Youngkin vetoed S.B. 606, a bill that would require the state to apply to rejoin the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), an interstate compact meant to ensure accurate voter rolls. Virginia left ERIC last year after co-founding the nonpartisan organization in 2012. Governor Youngkin also returned S.B. 196 to the legislature with recommended amendments. This bill would prohibit the use of data files for voter purges that do not include unique identifying numbers that can be reliably linked to a single individual. Youngkin’s recommended amendments would preserve the ability of county registrars to adjudicate challenges to voter registrations – as passed by the legislature, the bill would move this process entirely to state courts.

South Carolina House votes to extend early voting hours.

The South Carolina House passed a bill that would expand early voting hours for all elections by moving the closing time each day to 7 p.m. Early voting, which was created in the state for the first time in 2022 by S.B. 108, is currently available from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays to Saturdays for statewide elections and from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with Saturday voting optional, for all other elections. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

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