The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, April 15, 2024

by Ezra Billinkoff

April 15, 2024

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Today is Monday, April 15. We are tracking 1,716 bills so far this session across 44 states and D.C., with 303 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 857 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: The governor of Idaho signed into law a bill restricting mail ballot return, while the state supreme court upheld two restrictive voter ID laws. The governor of Virginia vetoed bills that would have expanded the acceptable forms of voter ID and expanded in-person early voting. The Tennessee legislature advanced a bill restricting voter registration efforts.

The Good News: The governor of Virginia signed bills ensuring eligible voters can vote by mail while in jail, and guaranteeing election information is available online in additional languages. The governor of Florida signed a bill to prevent voters’ partisan affiliations from being changed without their express consent during DMV transactions. The Nebraska legislature sent to the governor’s desk a bill accelerating restoration of voting rights for citizens with past felony convictions. The Mississippi legislature advanced bills simplifying the process for casting mail ballots in person and codifying a process for voters to correct errors on mail ballot envelopes.

Looking Ahead: Legislative sessions are expected to adjourn for the year this week in Kentucky, Maine, and Nebraska. The Kentucky House today will consider sending to the governor H.B. 580, a bill making a variety of changes to mail voting, in-person early voting, and voting while in jail.

Tomorrow, the New Hampshire House Election Law and Municipal Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on H.B. 1098 (allows local officials to personally deliver mail ballots to voters at residential care facilities), H.B. 1146 (establishes a process for a voter to request their own removal from the voter rolls), and H.B. 1369 (requires a quadrennial review of the voter list). On Wednesday, the New Hampshire Senate Finance Committee will hear S.B. 453, a bill requiring a review of the voter list every five years, and the North Carolina Joint Legislative Elections Oversight Committee will meet.

Here are the details:

Idaho governor signs bill restricting mail ballot return, while the state supreme court upholds restrictive voter ID laws.

Governor Brad Little signed H.B. 599 into law. Under this new law, it is illegal to return a mail ballot on behalf of a neighbor or friend who is not a relative, caregiver, or household member of the voter; compensated by the voter; or a postal worker or elections official. Violations of this prohibition are generally a misdemeanor, but become a felony if the individual returned more than 10 ballots or was paid by someone other than the voter for returning a ballot. Prior to the bill’s enactment, Idaho law did not restrict who could return a voter’s mail ballot for them. Meanwhile, the Idaho Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit challenging H.B. 124 and H.B. 340, two laws that made the state voter ID requirements stricter.

Virginia governor signs trio of bills that improve information sharing and expand access for incarcerated voters, while vetoing bills that would expand early voting and accepted forms of voter ID.

Governor Glenn Youngkin signed into law three election bills. H.B. 1330 instructs prison and jail officials to provide confined voters awaiting trial or convicted of misdemeanors with the means to submit mail ballot applications and return their mail ballots. H.B. 940 ensures notice of a change in polling place location is posted, to the extent possible, at the location last used for that polling place. H.B. 989 requires the Department of Elections to include certain election-related information on its website in additional languages. Governor Youngkin also vetoed two bills that would have expanded the types of voter IDs accepted in the state and increased early voting availability.

Florida governor signs bill aimed at preventing party affiliation changes without voter consent.

Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill intended to prevent inadvertent changes to a voter’s party affiliation during DMV transactions. The bill, H.B. 135, prohibits election supervisors from changing the party affiliation of a voter updating their registration without their written consent. The legislation also requires the DMV to provide voters with a printed receipt that includes their voter registration information and any changes in affiliation following a transaction to register to vote or update their registration record. This legislation was prompted by concerns over voters’ registrations being changed to “No Party Affiliation” when updating their registration address at the DMV.

Nebraska legislature passes bill to accelerate restoration of voting rights for citizens with past felony convictions.

The Nebraska legislature passed L.B. 20, a bill that would eliminate the current two-year waiting period for restoration of voting rights following completion of a sentence for a felony conviction. If enacted, Nebraska would join the vast majority of states in restoring voting rights to individuals with past felony convictions either immediately after release from incarceration or after completion of probation or parole. The bill now goes to Governor Jim Pillen to sign or veto.

Mississippi bills improving mail voting and making the office of county election commissioner nonpartisan pass second chambers.

The Mississippi House passed H.B. 1406, a bill eliminating the requirement that voters casting mail ballots in person complete the affidavit contained on return envelopes. Instead, voters casting mail ballots in elections offices would place their ballots directly into an optical scanner. The bill would also codify a process for mail voters to correct perceived signature issues on their return envelopes by noon on the fifth day after an election, formalizing a process that currently exists as an administrative regulation. The bill now goes to the House for consideration. The Senate also passed H.B. 922, a bill to make the role of county election commissioner nonpartisan and prohibit any reference to candidates’ party affiliation on the ballot. The bill now goes to Governor Tate Reeves to sign or veto.

Tennessee bills requiring searches for noncitizens on voter rolls and restricting voter registration efforts pass first chambers.

In Tennessee, two bills passed their first chambers. The House passed a bill that would require the coordinator of elections to compare the statewide voter registration database with Department of Safety records to identify registered voters who may not be U.S. citizens or who have moved, without establishing safeguards to protect against improper removal. DMV records have proven to be unreliable and often outdated sources of citizenship information when used in other states. All states, including Tennessee, already have protections against registration by non-U.S. citizens. This bill now heads to the Senate. Meanwhile, the Senate passed S.B. 2586, which would impose new requirements on organizations that register voters. This bill heads to the House next for consideration.

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