III. Legislative Update
Alabama: A bill currently pending the Legislature (SB 109) would change state law so that people with felony convictions are notified by normal U.S. Mail instead of certified mail about the loss of their voting rights. Proponents say the change will potentially save the state thousands of dollars per year while opponents argue that it has the ability to further disenfranchise ex-felons.
Arkansas: The week, the Senate approved a bill that would require voters to show photo ID in order to cast their ballot. The bill was approved 23 to 12 and moves now to a House committee.
Connecticut: Claiming that nearly 40 percent of the military and overseas ballots cast were not received by local elections offices in time to be counted, Sen. Gayle Slossberg (D-Milford) has introduced legislation to allow those ballots to be emailed or faxed. A similar bill was vetoed in 2011.
A bill has been introduced to the General Assembly will give the secretary of state’s office discretion to move special elections to coincide with other, previously planned elections, in order save towns on the cost of conducting multiple elections.
Georgia: House Bill 347, sponsored by Rep. Lynne Riley (R-Johns Creek) introduced late last week would shift control of the Fulton County elections board to the county’s legislative delegation.
Hawaii: While the legislature continues to debate all vote-by-mail, the House approved HB 1027 that would require absentee voters to affirm by signature that the ballot was completed in secrecy and without influence.
Idaho: Voters who once lived in Idaho and still are registered to vote there, but live overseas would be barred from voting in city and municipal elections under legislation introduced. Voters would still be able to vote in federal elections and the legislation would not impact members of the military.
Kentucky: SB 1, which was finally filed on Friday and would make it easier for members of the military to vote, was introduced without the provision to allow overseas members of the military to cast their ballots via email. The key backers of the bill, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) and Senate President Robert Stivers (R) disagree on the email provision.
Montana: A bill (HB 428) to give localities the option of doing vote-by-mail only elections, which has the support of state and local election officials, has run into some opposition in the state house. Groups representing Native Americans, disabled people, the elderly, environmentalists, and members of the tea party oppose the legislation saying that equates to a poll tax and would disenfranchise voters.
New Hampshire: Legislation pending in the House would require city clerks to be elected by the elected body of the city and that he or she be a resident of the city. The legislation, House Bill 541, is opposed by all 17 city clerks while the secretary of state’s office supports the bill since it falls in line with legislation passed years ago requiring town officials who handle elections live within their respective jurisdictions.
Rhode Island: Rep. William San Bento (D-Pawtucket) who recently won his reelection by one vote, was tapped by the state board of elections to introduce a package of six election reform bills. Among the bills is a proposal to close the gap between poll closing times and mail ballot acceptance times and the ability to count defective ballots even if the voter’s intent is clear.
South Dakota: Under legislation introduced by Sen. Stan Adelstein (R-Rapid City) parties would no longer choose candidates for the state’s constitutional offices — including secretary of state — through party caucuses but by primaries. According to the Argus Leader, Adelstein had originally planned to introduce legislation to make the secretary of state position a nonpolitical office, but instead introduced SB82.
This week, the Senate voted 32-1 in favor of Senate Bill 137 that would change the deadline to request an absentee ballot. Currently residents may require an absentee ballot as late as 3 p.m. on election day, but under the proposed legislation, that deadline would move to 5 p.m. the day before the election. The bill now goes to the House.
Virginia: After changing their voter ID laws just last year, Virginia is again one step closer to altering their ID requirements, this time to require a photo ID to cast a ballot. Legislation introduced in both the House and Senate would remove several forms of acceptable ID including utility bills and paychecks. In addition, the Senate bill, which was approved last week, would require a photo ID to vote. The Senate approved the bill on Wednesday and is now headed to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s desk.
While legislation to create no-excuse absentee voting previously failed in the General Assembly, another piece of legislation would at least eliminate the requirements for certain personal information on the absentee application. If approved, under the bill, SB 967, the following information would no longer be required: rank, grade and service identification number of active duty military; school address of students; specific nature of a disability or illness; jail address for someone awaiting trial or having been convicted of a misdemeanor; name of a family member and the nature of their illness for caregivers; person's religion for those claiming religious obligations; and, work address for anyone who must work 11 or more hours on election day.
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III. Legislative Update