Welcome to a special edition of The Markup. Please consider sharing this post with colleagues and friends today so that we can get this valuable information into more hands.
If someone else shared this with you and you would like to get these weekly updates straight to your inbox going forward, please subscribe here.
You’re reading a special edition of the Markup released to address Ohio’s H.B. 458, recently passed by the state legislature. The Markup will otherwise be taking a holiday break until January 9th. Happy Holidays!
Today is Monday, December 19. We are tracking 2,220 bills so far this session, including 74 prefiled bills, with 584 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 1,064 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.
The Bad News (warranting this update): The Ohio legislature has passed a comprehensive elections bill that will create strict photo ID requirements for in-person voting, limit drop boxes, and shorten deadlines for receipt and cure of mail ballots.
The Good News: Ohio lawmakers appropriated $7.5 million to provide counties with electronic poll books, and created requirements for mandatory election equipment testing prior to each election. The North Carolina Supreme Court declared the state’s photo ID law unconstitutional.
Looking Ahead: New York lawmakers have sent a bill that gives voters two additional weeks before an election to newly register or update their registrations. Gov. Hochul has 30 days to sign or veto the bill. If she takes no action, the bill is vetoed.
Here are the details:
Ohio bill creates new, strict photo ID requirements. The most significant portion of Ohio’s new election legislation, H.B. 458, substantially changes existing voter ID rules. Should Governor DeWine sign the bill as expected, voters will lose many of the existing options for acceptable voter ID. Ohio voters will be limited to providing as proof of identification an Ohio driver’s license or state ID card, a U.S. passport, or a military or National Guard ID. This change will add Ohio to the current group of 18 states that require photo ID to vote. Additionally, voters will no longer be able to verify provisional ballots by providing their ID number or the last four digits of their social security number. Voters who forget to bring ID to the polls will have to show their photo ID at the county elections office no later than four days after Election Day to have their provisional ballots counted.
Ohio mail voters also face new challenges. The new legislation also makes it more difficult to cast a mail ballot in Ohio. The deadline for voters to apply to cast their absentee ballot by mail will be pushed back from noon on Saturday before Election Day to the close of business seven days before Election Day. Completed ballots postmarked by the day before Election Day will need to be received by election officials no later than four days after Election Day, rather than the current deadline of seven days after Election Day. Voters concerned about mail service will also have very limited access to in-person return of mail ballots, as each county will be limited to a single drop box at a county election office. Counties with multiple election offices will only be allowed to accept returned ballots at one designated office.
Vulnerable Ohio voters may lose access. Several changes made by the new Ohio legislation could disproportionately impact older voters and voters with disabilities. The deadline to cure issues with mail ballot envelopes will be moved up from seven days after Election Day to four days after Election Day. Curbside voting will be limited to voters who are physically unable to enter the polling place, meaning that voters with compromised immune systems and other invisible disabilities will have to risk potential infection or other harm by mandatorily entering polling places to vote in person. Additionally, Ohio will follow the lead of states like Texas and Florida in criminalizing unauthorized third party return of absentee ballots as a felony – a development that could deter necessary ballot assistance for at-risk voters.
Ohio modernizes voting equipment. One silver lining in the Ohio legislation is the appropriation of funds to make sure all counties will use electronic poll books in future elections. Additionally, all election equipment will be subject to mandatory logic and accuracy testing before each election to ensure they are working properly and that voters can be confident in the accuracy of reported results.
New York may give voters the maximum constitutionally-permitted time to register to vote. New York’s constitution requires people to register to vote 10 days before an election, but New York’s statutes have always offered people less time. Currently, voters must register 25 days before an election. If S.B. 2951 becomes law, the registration deadline will be moved to 10 days before the election, giving voters two more weeks to register. Thus, because early voting begins 10 days before Election Day, registration will be continuously available until voting begins. If Governor Hochul does not sign the bill by January 11, it will be vetoed.
North Carolina Supreme Court strikes down 2018 voter ID law. In a close 4-3 decision, the North Carolina Supreme Court rendered its final ruling declaring that 2018 S.B. 824 was enacted with racially discriminatory intent and therefore violated their state constitution’s equal protection clause. This decision comes after years of litigation in state and federal courts. Enforcement of the law had been temporarily enjoined while the case was pending since February 2020.
Bonus: Voting Rights Lab released a new 2021-2022 state election law report. “The State of State Election Law Since 2020” details changes to state election law that defined 2021 and 2022, shaped the 2022 midterms, and will affect the 2024 presidential election as new legislation is prefiled for 2023. Read the full report here.