The Markup: Weekly Election Legislation Update for Monday, June 3 2024

by Chris Diaz

June 3, 2024

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By the way: The Markup is going to a summer schedule! As legislative sessions wrap up, we’ll be publishing on the first and third Mondays of each month before resuming weekly updates after Labor Day. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered in the runup to Election Day.

Today is Monday, June 3. We are tracking 1,769 bills so far this session across 44 states and D.C., with 308 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 882 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.

The Bad News: Under one of several new laws enacted in Louisiana last week, voters over the age of 65 will no longer be able to join a permanent mail voter list unless they have a disability. The Louisiana legislature also sent the governor bills that, if enacted, will require voters to provide documentary proof of citizenship and impose new restrictions on assisting voters. The Kansas Supreme Court rejected a challenge to new laws limiting voter assistance and increasing the likelihood that valid mail ballots will be rejected.

The Good News: The governor of Colorado signed a first-of-its-kind law ensuring that voters in county jails will have access to in-person early voting, while the secretary of state announced a grant program for counties to improve voter access and raise poll worker pay. The New York Senate advanced bills to expand voter access and eligibility to serve as a poll worker, as a court struck down a ban on providing food or water to voters waiting in line. The Kansas Supreme Court struck down a policy that risked criminalizing voter assistance and education efforts. A legal settlement will ensure that incarcerated voters in Nevada have access to same-day registration and a secret ballot.

Looking Ahead:

Today, the New York Senate is expected to vote on a bill that would prohibit county party chairs from also serving as election commissioners, with individuals who currently hold both positions grandfathered in. On Wednesday, conference committees in New Hampshire will take up bills that would establish a documentary proof of citizenship requirement for voter registration and eliminate alternatives to photo ID for in-person voters (H.B. 1370), as well as establish online voter registration (H.B. 463).

Here are the details:

Colorado enacts law to ensure eligible incarcerated voters have access to in-person early voting, as secretary of state announces new grant program.

Governor Jared Polis signed into law S.B. 72, a first-of-its-kind law that guarantees at least one day of in-person early voting in all county jails. Under Colorado law, individuals convicted of felonies cannot vote while they are in prison, but citizens incarcerated for  misdemeanor convictions and people  who are awaiting trial in jail remain eligible to vote. Also last week, Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced $1.5 million in new grants for Colorado counties to use for costs such as increasing pay for poll workers, opening early voting centers on Sundays, and facilitating voting on Tribal lands.

Louisiana governor signs several bills into law – including one that limits access to the permanent mail voter list – while the legislature sends proof of citizenship bill for consideration.

Governor Jeff Landry signed several elections bills into law last week, including S.B. 218, which limits eligibility for the permanent mail voter list to voters with disabilities, and S.B. 155, which makes it a crime for a person to assist more than one voter outside their immediate family with their mail ballot certificate. Current law – which will remain in effect for this year’s elections – allows all voters over 65 years of age to sign up for the permanent mail voter list. The legislature also sent additional election-related bills to the governor to consider. These bills include S.B. 436 (requires proof of citizenship for voter registration); H.B. 506 (requires voter registration organizations to register with the secretary of state); H.B. 581 (criminalizes serving as a witness for more than one mail voter who is not a family member); and H.B. 763 (imposes new burdens on parish election officials regarding federal elections directives, guidance, and funds).

New York Senate advances bills expanding mail ballot access and poll worker eligibility, while a federal court strikes down a ban on providing food and water to voters waiting in line.

The New York Senate passed several pro-voter bills last week. A.B. 3250 would allow individuals under 18 to apply for a mail ballot if they are already pre-registered to vote and will be 18 by Election Day. S.B. 6130 would allow attorneys licensed in the state to serve as poll workers in any county, and S.B. 4433 would allow full-time college and university students to serve as poll workers where they go to school, regardless of their county of registration. Generally, New York poll workers must be registered to vote in the county where they serve. Also last week, a federal judge struck down a century-old prohibition on providing food or beverages to voters waiting in line in a case brought by the Brooklyn NAACP. A bill that would repeal the ban has passed the state Senate but has not yet received a vote in the Assembly. A similar prohibition enacted in Georgia in 2021 has been preliminarily blocked by a federal court in that state while litigation over the ban proceeds.

Kansas Supreme Court upholds restrictions on mail ballot return, allows mail ballot signature verification to remain in place for now, and strikes down restriction on voter-assistance efforts.

The Kansas Supreme Court, in a ruling last week, unanimously struck down a law making it a crime for a person to falsely give the impression of being an election official, holding that the law – which could have criminalized unintentional misunderstandings in the course of voter assistance efforts – violated free speech rights. Additionally, the court upheld new restrictions on returning mail ballots on behalf of family and neighbors and a requirement that officials toss out ballots based on a perceived discrepancy between a voter’s signature on their mail ballot envelope and the signature on record. The challenged policies were all part of a restrictive omnibus bill enacted in 2021.

Nevada jails improve voting access for eligible incarcerated voters as part of legal settlement.

A voting rights group reached a settlement in a lawsuit that alleged that the Elko County Sheriff’s Office failed to comply with a 2023 law designed to expand access for eligible incarcerated voters. A.B. 286, which went into effect at the start of this year, requires local jails to establish a process for facilitating same-day voter registration by eligible citizens and to ensure the secrecy of the ballot without intimidation. Other county jails in the state came into compliance with the law without litigation. In Nevada, individuals convicted of felonies lose their right to vote while incarcerated, but those awaiting trial or serving a misdemeanor sentence remain eligible and can vote while detained.

Pennsylvania law on misdated and undated mail ballots faces a new challenge in state court.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania and the Public Interest Law Center are pursuing a state court challenge to the state’s requirement that officials toss out mail ballots received on time if the voter has not properly dated the ballot envelope. A challenge based on the federal Civil Rights Act was rejected earlier this year by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Pennsylvania remains one of only 18 states without a statewide process allowing voters to correct minor errors on their ballot envelopes.

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