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State legislatures across the nation have begun to adjourn for the year, and electionlineWeekly’s Mindy Moretti has a look at what transpired in the states in 2019 in the area of elections:
Although there’s no catchy Alice Cooper song to mark the season, many state Legislatures have finished or are finishing up their work for 2019.
It was a busy year for election legislation with thousands of bills being filed. Bills covered everything from ex-felon voting rights to voter ID to same day registration to what to wear the polls and whether or not you can bring a weapon with you, not matter what you’re wearing.
While some state Legislatures are still in session and there are others that don’t adjourn, we thought now would be a good time to take a look at some of the elections legislation that was on the table this year. This is just a snapshot of what was happening in the states this year. It’s always good to bookmark the State Elections Legislation Database brought you by our good friends at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Automatic voter registration. Election day registration. Same day registration. Limits on third-party voter registration groups. There were countless bills regarding some aspect of voter registration this year. After Republican lawmakers threatened a filibuster, a bill that would have allowed automatic voter registration in Connecticut failed at the end of the session. A bill in Kansas for same day registration never got past the committee level. Maine is poised to become the 18th state to allow automatic voter registration. The Nevada Legislature has approved same day registration. In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed Senate Bill 672 into law that allows for election day registration. The New York Senate is currently considering automatic voter registration. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is working with legislative Republicans and Democrats on automatic voter registration. A bill in South Carolina that would have extended the voter registration deadline initially passed the House before ultimately failing. The voter registration-related bill that probably generated the most headlines this year was in Tennessee where the governor has now signed a bill into law that will criminalize elements of the third-party voter registration process. The Utah Legislature has designated February 14 at Women’s Voter Registration Day. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam vetoed a bill that would have required people assisting others to sign up to vote to provide their own information on the paper registration forms.
Vote At Home
Paid postage, all vote-by-mail elections, uniform bar code usage and signature cures were just some of the vote at home legislation that was considered this year. The California Assembly has approved a bill that will cover the cost of return postage for all mail ballots. District of Columbia Councilmember Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward One) has introduced a bill that will send a mail ballot to every voter in DC and, at press time, would keep Election Day precinct-based polling places. Following issues with signatures in the 2018 election, the Florida Legislature has approved a bill that will allow vote at home voters to cure their signatures if a problem is discovered at the supervisor of elections office. Beginning in 2020, Hawaii will become a vote-by-mail state. InIowa, all counties are required to pay for and use the same barcode system so mail ballots are treated equally statewide. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has signed a bill that requires election officials to notify voters before their mail-in ballots are thrown out because of signature problems. Lawmakers inPennsylvania are currently considering a bill that would allow voters in the commonwealth to cast their ballot by mail. Lawmakers in Oregon are considering postage-paid vote at home ballots. Following in the footsteps of King County, the Washington Legislature has approved a bill that will provide postage-paid return envelopes to voters. In Wyoming, a bill that was supported by the county clerks and would have allowed counties to choose to vote-by-mail failed.
Ranked Choice Voting
Following Maine’s successful deployment of ranked choice voting in 2018, a number of state Legislatures considered bills that would mirror Maine’s, but none of those bills really gained much traction. The states include Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming. Although Maine successfully used ranked choice in 2018, efforts to expand the voting system to more elections did not have enough support to move forward. In Maryland, one bill that would allowed the city of Baltimore to use ranked choice voting was pulled and another bill that would have allowed Montgomery County to use the system failed in the General Assembly. It should be noted that while RCV didn’t have a successful year at the state level, a number of local jurisdictions considered moving to a ranked system.
Ex-Felon Voting Rights
It was a big year for voting rights for those formerly incarcerated and even for those awaiting trial. Arkansas will now allow restore the voting rights to formerly incarcerated children after they finish their sentence and parole. In the District of Columbia, where the city council remains in session, Robert White (I-At-Large) has introduced a bill that would allow District residents serving time in federal prisons to cast a ballot. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill into law that would require ex-felons to pay all fines and fees before their rights may be restored. In Illinois, SB2090, which is awaiting the governor’s signature, would allow anyone who is being held, but not yet convicted, to cast a ballot. It would also allow a county with a population of more than 3 million to set up a temporary polling place in a county jail. Despite support from the governor and overwhelming support from the public, a bill in Iowa that would have lifted the permanent ban on voting rights for ex-felons failed. Lawmakers in Kentucky are still considering a bill that would lift the permanent ban on voting rights for ex-felons. Efforts in Louisiana to change the voting rights for parolees and probationers went nowhere this year. At least 18 bills were filed in Mississippi that would have reformed felony voting rights restoration and none of them advanced. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed AB431 into law. The new law restores voting rights to ex-felons upon release from prison, not at the end of their sentence. An amendment that would have automatically restored the voting rights of those released from incarceration in Virginia failed along party lines. In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation into law that streamlines the process and notification requirements to felons of their voting rights and the restoration of those rights.
There was a time when the voter ID subhead was jam-packed with news, but not really this year. In Louisiana, a bill has been approved that will allow military IDs to serve as a form of ID to vote. In Maine, a move to require photo ID to vote never made it out of committee. North Carolina’s General Assembly approved legislation that would make it easier for student IDs also serve as voter IDs. The PennsylvaniaLegislature, which remains in session, is considering a bill that require an ID vote, although it is not a strict photo ID bill. A bill that would have allowed Virginia residents to use out-of-state college IDs in order to vote failed again.
Thanks to Mindy as always for pulling together this roundup; I can add my endorsement of NCSL’s database for anyone interested in knowing what’s going on in the states. Have a safe and wonderful weekend … stay tuned!