The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, March 18, 2024

by Liz Avore

March 18, 2024

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Today is Monday, March 18. We are tracking 1,655 bills so far this session across 44 states and D.C., with 290 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 837 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: The governor of Indiana signed a new law requiring election officials to use unreliable, often-outdated datasets for voter purges. The New Hampshire House passed a bill creating new documentation requirements for voter registration and in-person voting. The Idaho House passed a bill criminalizing the return of mail ballots on behalf of friends or neighbors.

The Good News: A new Indiana law makes it easier for voters to correct minor errors on their mail ballot envelopes. More citizens qualify for free voter IDs under a new Idaho law. The Mississippi Senate passed a bill that would establish in-person early voting. A North Carolina trial court ruled against the legislature’s attempted takeover of state and local election boards. The Maryland House passed a bill that would automatically register citizens to vote upon release from incarceration unless they opt out. The Wisconsin Supreme Court will reconsider a previous ruling prohibiting the use of mail ballot drop boxes. The Delaware Department of Elections nearly doubled poll worker pay for this year.

Looking Ahead:

Today, the Arizona Senate Committee on Elections is hearing H.B. 2405 (gives county recorders authority to place a voter’s registration on inactive status if they have cause to believe the registration is incorrect or fraudulent); H.B. 2765 (allows military family members to serve as poll workers regardless of place of registration); and H.C.R. 2032 (proposes a ballot initiative eliminating in-person early voting). Also today, the Georgia Senate Ethics Committee will consider and potentially amend a number of elections bills, including a bill to make scanned images of all paper ballots available online.

Tomorrow, the New Hampshire House Committee on Election Law will hear S.B. 489, a bill that would establish post-election audit procedures to ensure that voting equipment was properly programmed and that the locally reported election outcome was accurate. On Wednesday, the Arizona House Municipal Oversight & Elections Committee will hear S.B. 1286, a bill that would take away local discretion to establish countywide voting centers.

Here are the details:

Indiana governor signs several election-related bills into law, including a bill requiring voter purges based on unreliable datasets.

Governor Eric Holcomb signed into law H.B. 1264, a bill requiring election officials to compare the state’s voter rolls to unreliable, often-outdated datasets in an attempt to identify non-U.S. citizens and remove them from the voter rolls. A similar policy in Texas threatened tens of thousands of naturalized citizens with removal from the voter registration list – it was later abandoned as part of a legal settlement. Governor Holcomb also signed H.B. 1265, which will expand the options available for voters to correct their mail ballot if it is rejected due to perceived signature mismatch. The new law also expands the means by which officials can notify mail voters of a potential signature issue. Finally, the governor signed a bill establishing a felony offense for certain threats to election workers.

Mississippi Senate passes bill that would establish in-person early voting.

The Mississippi Senate passed S.B. 2580, a bill that would give all voters the option of voting early in person for the first time. Mississippi is one of only four states – newly including Delaware as a result of a recent judicial ruling – that does not offer in-person early voting. Under the bill, early voting would be available Monday through Saturday for two weeks before an election. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

New Hampshire House passes bill imposing new documentation requirements on registrants and voters.

The New Hampshire House passed a bill that would impose new burdens on registrants and voters by newly requiring them to provide documentation during the registration process and a photo ID at polling places with no exceptions. Under current New Hampshire law, and the law of nearly all states, citizens demonstrate their eligibility to vote by signing a statement under penalty of perjury. S.B. 1569 would require that citizens registering to vote provide documentation of their age, citizenship, and domicile. The bill would also take away the option for voters to sign an affidavit and have their photo taken in lieu of providing a photo ID. Only 17 states currently require voters to show photo ID when they cast a ballot in person without offering any alternative. The bill will now go to the Senate for consideration.

North Carolina court issues order blocking legislative power grab.

A three-judge panel in North Carolina issued an order striking down much of S.B. 749, a bill enacted last year over Governor Roy Cooper’s veto that would change the makeup of the state and county boards of elections. The court found that the bill, which would have taken appointment powers from the governor and given them to the legislature, constituted a “stark and blatant removal of appointment power” and infringed upon the governor’s constitutional duties to oversee the executive branch of government. Legislative leaders are appealing the decision, and the case is expected to eventually reach the state supreme court.

Idaho House passes bill prohibiting people from returning a completed, sealed mail ballots on behalf of friends and neighbors.

The Idaho House passed H.B. 599, a bill that would prohibit anyone other than a relative, caregiver, or member of a voter’s household from returning a mail ballot on their behalf. Under the bill, it would be a misdemeanor criminal offense for a friend, neighbor, or other trusted community member to place another voter’s ballot in the mail. The Idaho Senate will now consider the bill. Also last week, Governor Brad Little signed into law H.B. 532, a bill that allows more Idahoans to qualify for free voter ID cards.

Maryland House passes bill to automatically register citizens to vote upon release from incarceration.

A bill to make the Department of Safety and Correctional Services an automatic voter registration agency passed the Maryland House last week. Under the bill, eligible citizens would be automatically registered to vote upon release from a state corrections facility unless they opt out. Maryland currently offers automatic registration at the DMV, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, the Mobility Certification Office in the Maryland Transportation Administration, and certain local departments of social services. The bill will now go to the Senate for consideration.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will reconsider a 2022 decision that banned the use of drop boxes throughout the state.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments to decide whether to overrule their previous holding banning drop boxes in the state. In 2022, the court held that accepting mail ballots via drop boxes violated state law and that mail ballots could only be returned via mail or in person at a polling place. Drop boxes were used by over 40% of voters in 2020.

Delaware nearly doubles daily pay for election workers.

The Delaware Department of Elections announced a new pay scale for election workers that nearly doubles their daily compensation. At the new rates, pay for election clerks, judges, and inspectors would increase from between $190 and $235 per day to between $300 and $400. Legislatures in 30 states across the country have considered policies to improve poll worker recruitment and retention over the last several years as local elections offices have struggled to staff polling places.

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