The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, May 20, 2024

by Chris Diaz

May 20, 2024

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Today is Monday, May 20. We are tracking 1,742 bills so far this session across 44 states and D.C., with 303 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 872 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: Voters in Arkansas will be subject to a strict photo ID law and new mail voting rules after the state’s supreme court reinstated a set of 2021 laws that had been blocked by a lower court.

The Good News: The Minnesota Voting Rights Act was enacted, establishing new protections against voter suppression and vote dilution. Eligible voters in Mississippi jails and prisons are eligible to vote by mail under a new law. Some Oklahoma residents with past felony convictions will have their voting eligibility restored earlier under a new law.  Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill increasing daily poll worker pay.

Looking Ahead:

Today, the Louisiana House is expected to vote on Senate-passed bills that would require proof of U.S. citizenship for voter registration (S.B. 436); eliminate the permanent mail voter list (S.B. 218); prohibit individuals from assisting more than one voter outside their immediate family with their mail ballot affidavit (S.B. 155); and establish several new crimes relating to election fraud and forgery (S.B. 420). The House is expected to vote on H.B. 763, a House-passed bill that would require legislative approval before federal guidance could be implemented and place restrictions on federal funding.

Here are the details:

Minnesota enacts state-level Voting Rights Act.

Governor Tim Walz signed into law H.B. 4772, the Minnesota Voting Rights Act. The bill prohibits the adoption of any law or rule that would result in voter suppression or vote dilution, permits persons affected by a violation to pursue a civil action, and requires that laws be interpreted in favor of protecting the right to vote. Minnesota is the fifth state to pass a state-level voting rights act since 2021. Meanwhile, a package of laws known as the Michigan Voting Rights Act is currently under consideration there.

Oklahoma accelerates restoration of voting rights for some disenfranchised residents.

Governor Kevin Stitt signed a law that will – beginning in 2025 – restore the voting eligibility of citizens with past felony convictions upon discharge of their sentence, a pardon, or, under some circumstances, a commutation. This change will leave only three states where a citizen can have completed all sentence terms of a disenfranchising conviction and still not have the right to vote. The law that will remain in effect for the rest of this year disenfranchised citizens convicted of a felony for the full period of time for which they were sentenced to imprisonment, even if they received a pardon.

Mississippi expands access to voting in prisons and jails, while 16 individuals’ voting rights are individually restored.

Governor Tate Reeves allowed H.B. 1406 to be enacted without his signature. The bill expressly allows eligible voters who are incarcerated in prison or jail to request a mail ballot. Governor Reeves also signed two bills restoring voting rights for two individuals with past felony convictions, while allowing 14 restorations to be granted without his signature and vetoing four others. This follows the Senate’s refusal last month to take up a bipartisan House bill that would have established a timeline for automatic restoration of voting rights for many citizens with past felony convictions. Mississippi remains one of only three states that never automatically restores voting rights to people with past felony convictions, and the only state where citizens must individually apply to have their voting rights restored by the legislature.

Alabama enacts laws aimed at protecting election officials, raising poll worker pay.

Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill that increases criminal penalties for crimes against election workers. H.B. 100 increases mandatory minimums for crimes motivated by the victim’s role as an election official and expressly makes any felony committed against an election official a crime for which a person permanently loses their right to vote upon conviction. Governor Ivey also signed a bill increasing daily poll worker pay by $50-75.

Arkansas Supreme Court upholds laws eliminating alternatives to photo ID documentation, prohibiting mail ballot application distribution, and requiring earlier return of some mail ballots.

The Supreme Court of Arkansas reversed a lower court decision and ruled that four elections bills enacted in 2021 do not violate the state constitution. The bills include H.B. 1112 (imposed a strict photo ID requirement by eliminating the option for voters to file a sworn statement attesting to their identity along with a provisional ballot); H.B. 1715 (prohibited clerks from proactively distributing mail ballot applications); S.B. 643 (moved the deadline for returning mail ballots in person from the close of polls on Election Day to the Friday before Election Day); and S.B. 486 (prohibited remaining within 100 feet of the primary entrance of a polling location where voting is taking place, except for “lawful purposes”).

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