IV. Legislative Updates
Federal Legislation: Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) has introduced the Streamlining and Improving Methods at Polling Locations and Early Voting Act (SIMPLE) that would require states to allow voting in federal elections at least two weeks prior to election day, ensure polls are properly staffed and within walking distance of public transportation routes and require a wait time of no longer than one hour.
Arkansas: House Bill 1047, introduced by Rep. Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle) that would require voters to show a photo ID in order to vote has been approved by a legislative committee. Acceptable forms of ID include: Driver’s licenses, photos ID cards, concealed carry licenses, passports, employee badges, student ID cards issued by accredited Arkansas school, military ID documents, public-assistance ID cards and free voter verification cards. The full House has approved the legislation by a 74-12 vote.
Colorado: House Bill 104 that would allow people to take selfies of their completed ballot and share it on social media has passed the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee by an 8-1 vote.
Florida: A new joint resolution in the House would allow felons the right to vote in Florida three years after their sentence is up. The resolution would, if passed on the next general election (or a special election specifically for this) ballot, amend the statutes on voting to extend the right to felons.
Indiana: Members of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus have raised concerns about a bill that aims to consolidate voting precincts in Lake County. "Here we have yet another effort at 'reform,' which is not so thinly veiled in its effort to deny and repress minority voting in Lake County," Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, said in a statement. "There is no need to do something that will make it more difficult for people to cast a ballot, particularly at a time when Indiana has one of the worst voter participation percentages in the country." The Elections and Apportionment Committee has delayed action on the bill.
Kansas: The House Elections Committee is considering House Bill 2013 which would require write-in winners from primary elections to provide a written statement to the county election’s office within 10 days of the primary agreeing to be listed in the general election.
Mississippi: The House has approved House Bill 228 by a 113-8 vote. The bill would allow early voting beginning 14 days before an election.
Nebraska: State Sen. Burke Harr has introduced Legislative Bill 216 that if approved would create an independent advisory commission of citizens to redraw the state’s political map. A similar bill was approved last year, but was vetoed by Gov. Pete Ricketts.
North Carolina: The House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee heard arguments for and against House Bill 1369, that if approved, would require voters to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot.
Oregon: Secretary of State Dennis Richardson has tasked lawmakers with drafting a bill that would eliminate the ability as secretary of state to order elections investigations. According to The Oregonian, if introduced and approved, elections investigations could only be launched if an external complaint is filed.
Utah: The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approve SB144 that would create runoff elections. The bill now would require runoff elections if a primary election occurs with four or more candidates, and no one achieves a plurality of at least 35 percent. The bill now heads to the full Senate.
Also in the Senate, the Senate Government Operations Committee has approved SB116 that would require county clerks to come up with plans, to be reviewed by the lieutenant governor’s office, to ensure voting lines will be a half-hour or less. The committee also approves SB128 that would allow county clerks to add and advertise more last-minute polling places if necessary.
HB204 would make the state and counties responsible for carrying out a presidential primary every four years. The bill would include a set aside of $750,00 each year for the estimated $3 million cost of running the primaries.
The House Government Operations Committee has approved a bill that would allow counties to hold early voting on the Monday before a Tuesday election. Counties would be allowed to extend early voting at their discretion.
Vermont: By a 76-59 vote, the full House has voted in favor of conducting a new recount in a disputed House election.
Virginia: By a 4-3 vote, the House Privileges and Elections Subcommittee tabled five constitutional amendments that would alter the way felons regain their voting rights.
The in a 64-33 party-line vote, the House has approved House Bill 1598 that would require proof-of-citizenship before registering to vote. Citizenship could be proved with a birth certificate, passport, naturalization document or other record accepted under federal law. Anyone registered to vote as of Jan. 1, 2018, would not have to prove their citizenship.
Washington: Republicans and Democrats have introduced competing voting-rights bills that have rekindled debate over efforts aimed at making local elections more hospitable to minority candidates. The four bills would remove a 1994 state restriction that prevents most Washington cities from replacing an at-large voting system with district elections.
Wyoming: By a 41-17 vote, the House has approved legislation that will automatically restore the voting rights to some non-violent ex-offenders.
Also in Wyoming, the House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee has voted down a bill that would have required voter to show an ID in order to cast a ballot. The committee also advanced a bill to the full House that would allow voters to put themselves on permanent absentee voter lists. Another bill approved would create a tier payment system for recounts. The cost of the deposit for a recount would rise as the margin of error rises with the deposit topping out at $3,000.
The committee also approved House Bill 68 which would allow county clerks to accept absentee ballots post marked on Election Day and received by the time of the canvass. However, the full House defeated the extended period of time for counting absentee ballot.
The House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee voted down House Bill 201 that would have set a separate presidential primary election in April, in addition to the regular primary in August and general election in November.