IV. Legislative Update
Florida: According to the Naples News Daily there are currently 16 pieces of election reform legislation pending in the Sunshine State. The legislation addresses everything third-party registration to word count limits on ballot summaries to the number of early voting sites and days. On the first day of the session, the House approved HB7013 which will give elections supervisors the ability to choose between eight and 14 days of early voting for eight to 12 hours per day; expand the types/locations for early voting sites and limit the number of words on ballot amendments.
Georgia: The House has approved HB 347 that would have state legislators choose Fulton County’s election board chairman instead of the county’s commissioners.
Hawaii: Two elections-related bills were approved by the Hawaii House and are now making their way through the Senate. HB198 requires that absentee ballots for those requesting permanent absentee status be mailed to the voter’s address in their most recently completed affidavit and HB321 allows for election-day registration.
Illinois: Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) has introduced legislation that would remove polling places from schools throughout the state.
Maryland: Following the 2012 election year that saw numerous controversial referendums, HB493 was introduced that would toughen the regulations for citizen-led referendums including requiring a signer’s name to appear on a petition exactly as it is listed in the state voter registration database.
Nevada: SB212 would eliminate Nevada’s caucus system and instead replace it with a presidential preference primary. According to Sen. James Settelmeyer (R-Minden), one of the main objectives of the bill is to allow military and overseas voters to participate in the process, something that is impossible under the caucus system. If approved, the Nevada presidential preference primary and state primary would be held on the second to last Tuesday in January.
New Jersey: The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee voted 8-5 to approve S2364 that would allow voters to cast their ballots at designated early voting sites up to 15 days prior to the election.
Rhode Island: Legislators in The Ocean State are debating legislation that would provide Rhode Islanders with up to three weeks of early voting. Sponsors of the bill, who are Democrats say that it will give voters ample opportunity cast a ballot whereas opponents of the legislation, who are Republicans, say it opens the state up to voter fraud. Governor Lincoln Chafee has said he will sign the bill if it is approved.
Another bill introduced in Rhode Island would eliminate the state’s voter photo ID law. The law was created in 2011 and used for the first time in the November 2012 election.
Tennessee: Legislation pending in Tennessee would allow for the creation of “election centers” what most of us call vote centers which would allow local election commissioner to participate in a pilot program for vote centers. Under HB 703, counties would be allowed to have as many vote centers as they wanted as long as there was at least one for every 10,000 voters.
Another piece of legislation making it’s way through the Senate is a bill that would allow student IDs issued by a state institute of higher learning to be used as photo ID for voting. The legislation would also clear up the controversy about library cards being used.
A bill making it’s way through the Tennessee General Assembly would prohibit non-citizens from working in or even entering polling places. The legislation would also require poll watchers to be U.S. citizens and bar non-citizens from admission to voting sites.
Utah: A bill that would allow Utahans to register and vote on the same day cleared its first hurdle this week and now heads to the full House for a vote. HB 91 changes the way provisional ballots would be handled for those who have never before registered to vote in Utah and opens the door for voters to register and vote on Election Day.
Virginia: The Virginia Generally Assembly has approved legislation allowing the state to offer online voter registration. The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate and now heads to the governor’s desk.
Following up on last week’s story about polling places in schools, it should be noted that the General Assembly considered legislation that would remove polling places from schools in the Commonwealth, but the legislation essentially went nowhere.