III. Legislative Updates
Federal Legislation: Sens. Gary Peters (D-Michigan) and David Perdue (R-Georgia) have reintroduced the State and Local Cyber Protection Act that would increase cooperation between the Department of Homeland Security and state and local governments.
Also in Congress, Rep. Jerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Jim Langevin (D-RI) have introduced the Fair, Accurate, Secure and Timely (FAST) Voting Act which would provide federal grants to states to boost voting system security and increase voter access to elections. According to The Hill, the bill would let states compete for federal funding to implement policy changes aimed at increasing voter access to elections and boosting voting system security. The grants would be administered by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
Alaska: Smile! By a 32-8 vote, the House has approved legislation that would make it legal to take a selfie with your marked ballot and post it on social media. The bill heads next to the Senate.
Arkansas: If at first you don’t succeed you of course try again and that’s exactly what the Senate did this week. Early in the week the Senate rejected a bill to require voters to show a photo ID, but the bill was approved on a second try.
While legislation to approve voter ID moved forward, another measure, one that would put the question to the voters in 2018 was also approved.
California: Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) has introduced a constitutional amendment that would lower the state’s voting age from 18 to 17.
Assemblyman Rob Bonta has introduced Assembly Bill 918, the California Voting for All Act. Under the bill, eligible voters with limited English proficiency would be allowed to bring laminated translated voting ballots with them to the polling place.
Colorado: Cheese! By a 31-4 vote, the Senate has approved legislation that will allow ballot selfies in Colorado. While lawmakers had twice rejected bills to allow ballot selfies, this time both the Senate and the House have approved legislation that Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has indicated he will sign.
Connecticut: Lawmakers debated two proposed constitutional amendments this week. One would allow no-excuse absentee voting and the other would allow for early voting.
Florida: Under House Bill 1325 local elections officials would not be able to extend polling hours. “[U]nless there is a specific showing or finding of fact that extraordinary circumstances exist to justify the extension,” that option would not be available to local supervisors of elections.
Also in Florida, a bill that would make the secretary of state an elected position instead of one appointed by the governor was approved by the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections.
Idaho: The House Education Committee has killed a bill that would have made every election day in Idaho a school holiday. While the measure was created to protect the safety of students and staff who work in schools that serve in polling places, it drew strong opposition from school boards statewide.
Kansas: Sen. Anthony Hensley (D-Topeka) said that he plans to introduce legislation that would empower county commissioners to appoint county elections officials instead of the secretary of state.
Maine: The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee deadlocked 6-6 on a bill that would require voters to show a photo ID to vote. The bill would require voters to display a photo identification issued by the state, the federal government, a Maine college or university, or an electronic benefits transfer – or EBT – card used for food stamps or other welfare benefits. Voters who cannot provide a photo ID could cast a provisional ballot, but that vote would only be counted if the person’s identity is subsequently confirmed.
Massachusetts: Republicans in the Massachusetts Senate plan to introduce a bill requiring the state to reimburse cities and towns for mandated costs related to early voting.
Michigan: House Bill 4328, which has been referred to the House Elections and Ethics Committee would legalize ballot selfies in Michigan. The bill would apply to ballots cast in-person at polling places or by absentee.
Minnesota: Initially introduced as a stand-alone bill (Senate File 1225) a measure to introduce provisional ballots to Minnesota has been rolled into a larger elections reform package (Senate File 514). Under the proposal, provisional votes would be cast, then set aside until a challenged voter’s eligibility is reviewed by election authorities and either affirmed or denied. Officials would have seven days to make that decision.
The House has approved $14 million in funding for counties to update voting equipment, but local elections officials say that is not nearly enough and is about half what they really need.
New Hampshire: One of the many election-reform bills making its way through the New Hampshire Legislature is one that would bar anyone who comes to New Hampshire only for “temporary purposes” from voting in the state. This includes anyone here for less than 30 days for vacation, short-term work on volunteer work.
The House of Representatives approved a variety of election-related bills on Thursday, including a measure to step up enforcement of unverified voter affidavits by turning the process over to the Secretary of State. The House also passed HB 430, which requires local election officials to keep track of voters using an out-of-state driver’s license as proof of identity when voting, by a vote of 187-160. An automatic voter registration bill was defeated as was a bill that would allow any voter to vote by absentee ballot.
Nebraska: According to the Lincoln Journal-Star, LR1CA, a constitutional amendment which would require voters to show a photo ID may be headed for a filibuster showdown.
Nevada: By a 3-2 partisan vote a Senate committee approved automatic voter registration legislation. The bill now moves to the full Senate where it is expected to pass.
Ohio: By a 32-0 vote, the Ohio Senate has approved SB 10 which would allow counties to eliminate uncontested primary races from ballots. In addition, special primaries for open congressional seats would not be held if only one candidate qualifies for the ballot.
Oregon: Senate Bill 683 would require the state to pay postage for all mail-in ballots at a cost of about $650,000 per year. If approved, it would go into effect in 2019.
Rhode Island: Rep. Robert Nardolillo (R-Coventry) said he plans to introduce a resolution in the Rhode Island House of Representatives urging the U.S. Congress to rework the federal Motor Voter Act to allow states to require proof-of-citizenship to register to vote.
Utah: By 59-12 with bipartisan support, the House has vote to approve HB349 which would implement ranked choice voting in multi-candidate primaries. However, with a 3-3 tie a Senate committee voted to kill the bill.
In other news, the House voted 26-45 to kill HB314 which would have required mail-in ballots arrive at a county clerk’s office on or before Election Day.
Also in Utah, a Senate committee has approved legislation in support of automatic voter registration. The bill would change the current opt-in system to an opt-out system. The bill was approved 5-1 and now moves to the full Senate.
Washington: The Senate voted 34-15 to move the state’s presidential primary from May to early March beginning in 2020. The approval came despite some complaints that the bill only addressed the presidential primary and not the entire primary system.
Although no cases of ballot box vandalism have been reported, lawmakers have approved legislation to protect ballot drop boxes. The bill defines the removal, destruction or damage of a drop box or its contents as malicious mischief. It upgrades the crime to a Class C felony with a penalty of up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both.
West Virginia: The House has approved legislation that will allow electioneering as close as 100-feet from the entrance to a polling place, including during early voting. The current law is 300 feet and was approved in 1986.
Also in the House, the Judiciary Committee worked through a new voter ID bill and sent it down to a subcommittee for further review. The bill, if approved, would require residents to show a valid driver’s license, state ID card, passport or passport card, an employee ID card or any other government agency ID or military card. It would ban use of high school or college IDs, birth certificates, SNAP ID cards, utility bills, bank cards, etc. as allowed under current law.