III. Legislative Updates
Connecticut: The Senate Government Administration and Elections Committee has approved a bill that would allow Connecticut’s cities and towns to reduce then number of primary day polling places. The bill was originally drafted to only apply to cities and towns of 15,000 or fewer, but was expanded to include all cities and towns. Under the legislation, any town’s registrars of voters would have the authority to reduce the number of polling stations up to 60 days before a scheduled primary.
Kentucky: A bill that would have allowed residents of Kentucky up to two weeks in advance of an election to cast their ballot has died in the Senate. The early voting bill cleared the House, but was never brought up for a vote in the Senate. The Kentucky County Clerk’s Association had opposed the legislation.
Maine: The Legislature has approved a bill that would move Maine to a presidential primary system instead of caucuses beginning in 2020. The bill is now on Gov. Paul LePage’s desk and while he has not said whether or not he will sign it, he has indicated his support for it.
Maryland: In the closing days of the 2016 session, by a vote of 21-24 the Senate killed legislation that would have made Maryland an automatic voter registration state. Senators opposing the bill—mostly Republicans—raised concerns that non-citizens wouldn’t be weeded out because Maryland issues them driver’s licenses. There were also privacy concerns for those who are victims of domestic abuse.
While automatic voter registration was not approved, other legislation to expand voter registration access was approved. The Freedom to Vote Act will expand voter registration opportunities to nearly every state agency and provide technical upgrades to those agencies already providing voter registration.
Massachusetts: Advocates testified on behalf of House Bill 4097 this week. Under the legislation filed by Boston Rep. Evandro Carvahlo, the secretary of state would be required to establish a system of automatic voter registration and voter registration updates for anyone doing business with a state agency or public higher education institution.
Missouri: According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for the second time in as many weeks, Missouri Republican senators paused debate on a contentious voter ID measure after Democrats stalled a vote on the bill. GOP Senators said they will bring the bill back up before the May 13th adjournment.
New Mexico: Secretary of State Brad Winter clarified this week that 17-year-olds who turn 18 by the time of the general election will be allowed to vote in the state’s June primary, but since the law does not go into effect until May 18, those teens will not be allowed to vote during the first eight days of early voting.
Oregon: Members of the Pacific Green Party of Oregon have launched a petition drive to put a measure on the ballot this November that would make Benton County the first county in the state to adopt ranked choice voting.
Pennsylvania: State Rep. Jason Ortitay, R-South Fayette Township, introduced legislation that would require a task force be established for the purpose of studying the commonwealth’s aging voting technology. The task force would also make recommendations on future voting machine and election technology.
Rhode Island: Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation into law that allows voters to register online to vote. The legislation directs Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s office to develop an online portal to speed the voter registration process, as well as give voters the chance to edit their electoral information electronically. The legislation also require Gorbea’s office to include “experts concerning disability and usability access to websites” in the development process to ensure that it’s accessible to all and fully compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
Vermont: The Senate unanimously approved legislation that could make Vermont the fourth state to implement automatic voter registration. The measure has already been approved by the House. House members reviewed the Senate bill this week and approved it. Next up, Gov. Peter Shumlin’s desk.