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Today is Monday, February 13. We are tracking 990 bills so far this session, with 216 bills that restrict voter access or election administration and 502 bills that improve voter access or election administration. The rest are neutral, mixed, or unclear in their impact.
The Bad News: The Florida legislature passed a bill expanding the authority of the state’s new election crimes unit. Mississippi advanced legislation that would increase criminalization of elections, make non-voting a trigger for list removal, and limit community return of mail ballots.Legislation that would repeal no-excuse mail voting and allow political candidates to initiate reviews of election results both passed committee in Arizona.
The Good News: The Virginia Senate adopted a resolution to amend the state constitution so that a citizen’s voting rights are restored immediately upon release from incarceration. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers announced his intent to implement automatic voter registration without legislative action and proposed funding and policies to increase voter access. In New Hampshire, the senate passed a bill to create online voter registration. Utah advanced legislation that would improve mail ballot accessibility for voters with disabilities.
Looking Ahead: With a committee deadline looming on Friday in Arizona, senate and house committees will hear over 30 election bills this week. An Oregon bill to facilitate the registration of formerly incarcerated individuals, allow people registering to vote online to do so with an electronic image of their signature, and expand automatic voter registration in the state by establishing the Oregon Health Authority as an automatic registration agency is scheduled to be heard tomorrow.
Here are the details:
Florida passes legislation expanding the authority of the state’s new election crimes unit. Last week, the Florida legislature passed a bill that would ensure the state’s new Office of Election Crimes and Security has authority to prosecute people who vote under the mistaken belief that they are eligible to do so. Last year, the office made headlines when it very publicly arrested 20 people for voting while ineligible, even though the state had improperly issued them registration cards. State prosecutors had difficulty prosecuting these individuals because state law did not clearly give them jurisdiction; local prosecutors had the authority to bring the cases. S.B. 4 would ensure that the state has authority to prosecute these types of cases in the future. The Governor has until February 25 to sign it.
Virginia moves on rights restoration. The Virginia Senate adopted a resolution proposing to amend the state’s constitution so that a citizen’s voting rights are restored immediately upon release from incarceration. Currently, Virginia is one of only three states where the voting rights of people with past felony convictions are never automatically restored. Last week, a slew of other bills also passed one of the two legislative chambers, which are controlled by opposite parties.
Wisconsin Governor announces intent to implement AVR without legislative action and proposes funding and policies to increase voter access. Earlier today, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers released his budget proposal and announced his intention to implement automatic voter registration at the DMV through administrative action. The Governor called for about $3 million to fund several policy changes to register voters, expand early voting, and increase transparency. The proposals include creating the Office of Election Transparency and Compliance, restoring a program to register high school students to vote, allowing local administrators to process mail ballots earlier, and providing the Wisconsin Elections Commission more flexibility to use its existing funding.
Mississippi advances legislation that would increase criminalization of elections, make non-voting a trigger for list removal, and limit community return of mail ballots. Last week, a number of bills passed their chambers of origin in Mississippi. In the House, H.B. 1310 would make non-voting a reason to start the list removal process, and H.B 400 would severely increase the maximum penalties for a variety of existing election crimes. Mississippi is currently one of 29 states where not voting does not trigger removal. In the Senate, S.B. 2351 would authorize the attorney general to investigate allegations of election fraud based on complaints from candidates, and S.B. 2358 would prohibit people from returning mail ballots on behalf of anyone other than a relative, household member, or caregiver.
New Hampshire Senate passes bipartisan bills to improve voter registration. The New Hampshire Senate advanced two bipartisan bills that improve voter access. S.B. 70 would establish an online portal for voter registration and mail ballot applications. New Hampshire is currently the only state where voter registration must be done in person at a clerk’s office unless the registrant has a qualifying excuse for “absentee registration.” S.B. 156 relaxes proof of domicile requirements for new registrants, bringing the code in line with a 2021 state supreme court ruling that 2017 S.B. 3 violated the state constitution.
Utah advances bill to improve mail ballot accessibility for voters with disabilities. The Utah house passed H.B. 162, a bill that would require election authorities to offer an accessible means of voting for persons with disabilities who are unable to vote by mail. The bill would additionally provide protections for those whose disability may lead to signature inconsistencies while voting by mail — allowing the voter to provide appropriate documentation upon request to prevent their ballot from being rejected for signature matching issues.
Arizona committee passes legislation that would repeal no-excuse mail voting and allow political candidates to initiate reviews of election results. The Arizona House Municipal Oversight and Elections Committee passed several bills last week. H.B. 2078, which mirrors legislation that passed the Texas Senate in 2021, would allow candidates and political party chairs to initiate post-election investigations of election results. H.B. 2231, which also passed the committee, is a radical bill that would eliminate no-excuse mail voting and in-person early voting. Under this bill, only people who are physically unable to go to the polls, absent from their jurisdiction, or visually impaired could vote prior to Election Day.
This update is powered by VRL’s State Voting Rights Tracker: tracker.votingrightslab.org