The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, April 8, 2024

by Liz Avore

April 8, 2024

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Today is Monday, April 8. We are tracking 1,702 bills so far this session across 44 states and D.C., with 300 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 851 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: Two Wisconsin state constitutional amendments that will make election administration more difficult were approved by voters. The Idaho legislature sent Governor Brad Little a bill that, if signed, will restrict options for mail ballot return. A Mississippi bill to restore voting rights to citizens with some past felony convictions failed in the Senate after passing the House last month with broad bipartisan support. The Louisiana House passed bills that would restrict mail ballot return and election administration.

The Good News: Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed bills protecting election official privacy, improving accessibility for voters with disabilities, and requiring earlier notice to voters when their polling place is moved. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear vetoed a bill that would require the state to leave ERIC. The New Hampshire Senate passed a bill allowing officials to begin processing mail ballots before Election Day.

Looking Ahead:

This week, the legislatures in Arkansas and North Carolina convene for the first time this year, while sessions adjourn in Idaho and Kansas. Today in New York, the Senate will consider S.B. 585 (allowing the governor or the bipartisan State Board of Elections to remove commissioners of local boards of elections for incompetence, misconduct, or other good cause), S.B. 609 (allowing poll workers to work partial-day shifts rather than the full 16.5 hours), S.B. 614 (prohibiting county party chairs from serving as leaders of local boards of elections), and S.B. 619 (restructuring the New York City Board of Elections).

Tomorrow, the Alaska House State Affairs Committee will hear a bill that would allow pre-registration of voters starting at 16 years old. On Wednesday, the Missouri Senate Local Government and Elections Committee will hear a bill that would protect the voting rights of citizens under guardianships or conservatorships. The New Hampshire House is also expected to consider a bill making images of marked ballots subject to public inspection this week.

Here are the details:

Wisconsin voters adopt two state constitutional amendments restricting election administration; Governor Evers urges the state’s supreme court to reverse a ban on mail ballot drop boxes.

Last Tuesday, voters in Wisconsin approved two constitutional amendments dealing with elections. One prohibits state and local governments from accepting private grant funds for election administration, and the other risks making common volunteer activities, such as helping voters obtain required ID or preparing mailings, illegal. Also last week, Governor Tony Evers filed a brief urging the Wisconsin Supreme Court to overturn a previous ruling that banned mail ballot drop boxes from being used outside of election clerks’ offices. The court recently agreed to hear a challenge to the drop box ban.

Virginia governor signs bills protecting election official privacy, expanding access to curbside voting for voters with disabilities, and requiring earlier notice to a voter when their polling place moves.

Governor Glenn Youngkin signed into law three elections bills last week. H.B. 943 permits registrars and members of local election boards to use a P.O box instead of a physical address on their public voter registration record. H.B. 441 allows voters with non-physical disabilities to cast their vote from outside the polling place in the same way as voters with physical disabilities can under current law. H.B. 1003 gives voters earlier advance notice of polling place changes, ensuring they receive notice of changes 30 days before an election (rather than 15 days, as under previous law). Governor Youngkin also vetoed a bill that would have expanded the area around a polling place where firearms are prohibited from 40 feet to 100 feet.

Mississippi bill to restore voting rights of some citizens with past felony convictions fails after passing the House.

The Mississippi Senate Constitution Committee declined to take up H.B. 1609, which would restore voting rights to many Mississippians currently disenfranchised due to a past felony conviction, despite the bill passing the House last month with overwhelming bipartisan support.. 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 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.

Kentucky governor vetoes bill that would require the state to leave ERIC.

Governor Andy Beshear vetoed H.B. 44, a bill that would prohibit the state from being a member of any interstate organization to maintain accurate voter lists that also requires the state to meet certain proactive registration outreach requirements. This would include the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a bipartisan interstate compact meant to ensure accurate voter rolls. In his veto message, Governor Beshear noted that the bill additionally directs the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to share a type of record that does not exist. The legislature will now consider a potential override of Beshear’s veto, which would require only a simple majority.

Idaho legislature sends bill restricting mail ballot return to governor. I

In Idaho, H.B. 599 passed out of the legislature and is now awaiting Governor Brad Little’s signature or veto. The bill would restrict third party return for mail ballots by making it illegal to return another voter’s ballot unless the returner is a relative, caregiver, or household member of the voter’s; is compensated by the voter; or is a postal worker or elections official. Violations of this prohibition would be a misdemeanor unless the individual returned more than 10 ballots or was paid by someone other than the voter for returning the ballot, in which case a violation would be a felony. Current Idaho law does not restrict who may return a mail ballot on a voter’s behalf.

New Hampshire bill allowing earlier processing of mail ballots passes Senate by unanimous consent.

The New Hampshire Senate passed S.B. 537 by unanimous consent. The bill would allow election officials to begin opening outer envelopes containing mail ballots as early as the Thursday before Election Day. Under current law, officials cannot begin processing mail ballots until two hours after polls open on Election Day. Since 2021, 16 states have enacted laws giving officials more time to verify mail ballots. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

Pair of bills restricting mail voting and election administration clear the Louisiana House of Representatives.

The Louisiana House of Representatives approved two restrictive voting bills this past week. H.B. 476 would prohibit Louisianans from mailing a ballot for more than one friend or neighbor. H.B. 763 would prohibit election officials from implementing federal guidance or accepting or disbursing federal funding without approval from the legislature. The bills now move to the Senate for further consideration.

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