The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, May 13, 2024

by Chris Diaz

May 13, 2024

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Today is Monday, May 13. We are tracking 1,737 bills so far this session across 44 states and D.C., with 304 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 870 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: Election administrators in Georgia must comply with burdensome, costly new requirements under new laws signed by the governor. New laws in Tennessee will risk legitimate voters being flagged as ineligible and impose unnecessary burdens on voter registration efforts. Wisconsin voters must continue to have a witness sign their mail ballot envelope after a federal court turned away a challenge to the requirement.

The Good News: The Oklahoma legislature sent the governor a bill that, if signed, will accelerate the restoration of voting rights for citizens with past felony convictions. All New York voters will continue to have the option to vote by mail, as an appeals court dismissed a challenge to a law expanding access.

Looking Ahead:

Legislative sessions are expected to adjourn for the year this week in Alaska, Maine, and Missouri. Today, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is hearing a case that will determine whether mail ballot drop boxes will be available to voters this November. Tomorrow, the Wisconsin Elections Commission is meeting to consider implementation of a vague constitutional amendment that could threaten common forms of volunteering. On Wednesday, the Delaware Senate Elections & Government Affairs Committee will hear a bill to improve polling place access for voters with disabilities. On Thursday, the New Hampshire Senate is expected to vote on a House-passed bill that would create strict documentation requirements for voter registration and in-person voting.

Here are the details:

Georgia enacts a package of bills overhauling election administration, while the State Election Board initiated a process that may complicate the certification of results in November.

Governor Brian Kemp signed several bills into law. S.B 189 prohibits, beginning in 2026, the current practice of tabulating ballots using barcodes or QR codes. It would also add other expensive requirements for local officials while providing no state funding for implementation and establish new guidelines for challenges to voter registrations. H.B. 1207 expands the authority of poll watchers to observe all activities at polling places and prohibits county officials from hiring non-citizens authorized to work in the United States – including green card holders – for jobs involving election-related duties. H.B. 974 requires the secretary of state to create and maintain a statewide program for posting digital images of scanned paper ballots. Also last week, the State Election Board voted to consider a new rule that would require a “reasonable inquiry” before election results can be certified. The rule will now be reviewed, and could be adopted or rejected, in the coming months.

Tennessee enacts laws that risk purging naturalized citizens from voter rolls and restrict voter registration efforts.

Governor Bill Lee signed two bills into law. First, a bill that requires 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. Governor Lee also signed S.B. 2586, which imposes burdensome new requirements on organizations that register voters.

Oklahoma legislature sends voting rights restoration bill to the governor.

The Oklahoma Senate passed H.B. 1629, sending the bill to the governor’s desk. The bill, if signed, will restore the voting rights of citizens with past felony convictions upon discharge of their sentence, a pardon, or, under some circumstances, a commutation. Oklahoma is one of only four states where a citizen can have completed all terms of a disenfranchising conviction and not have their right to vote restored. The current law disenfranchises citizens convicted of a felony for the full period of time for which they were sentenced to imprisonment, even if they are released early, pardoned, or have had their sentence reduced.

New York appeals court upholds no-excuse mail voting law.

An appellate court in New York upheld a law enacted last year – S.B. 7934 – that gives all voters the option of voting by mail, agreeing with a trial court’s dismissal of a challenge to the law brought by state Republicans. The plaintiffs in the case argued that the bill violated the New York Constitution. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, the lead plaintiff in the case, indicated she plans to appeal the decision to the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

Wisconsin judge upholds witness requirement for mail ballots.

A federal judge in Wisconsin rejected a challenge to the state’s requirement that voters have a witness sign their mail ballot return envelope. The challengers argued that the law places a potentially disenfranchising burden on voters that disproportionately impacts those who are disabled, members of protected minority groups, recently naturalized, and students. Wisconsin is one of only 10 states where mail voters must have their return envelopes signed by a witness or notary. The plaintiffs have not said whether they will appeal the judge’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

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