III. Legislative Updates
Arizona: The Senate has approved House Bill 2244 that imposes a “strict compliance” legal standard on measures that citizen groups want to bring to the ballot.
Arkansas: Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed legislation that bars Arkansas residents from simultaneously serving as a member of the state Board of Election Commissioners and a county election commission.
California: Senate Bill 568 would move the state’s 2020 primary election from June to the third Tuesday in March. The legislation is supported by Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
Colorado: Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed a bill into law that will ban “free speech zones” on college campuses meaning that students are free to express their ideas — including conducting voter registration drives — in public areas of campus.
Georgia: Under House Bill 268, voters could still cast a ballot in an election as long as they registered in time within the 26-month period, even if they were flagged by the system. They would need to provide ID information to correct the discrepancy at the polls before voting, or they could cast a provisional ballot.
Indiana: House Bill 1178 is headed to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk. While originally a bill that would automatically register Hoosiers to vote, the amended bill now requires Bureau of Motor Vehicles employees to ask each person conducting business at the local branch if they want to register to vote. If the answer is yes, the employee must provide the proper forms to register, then provide additional information on how to file the paperwork with the county voter registration office.
Iowa: The House has modified Secretary of State Paul Pate’s election integrity bill. Amendments include changing the implementation date for the absentee ballot provision to Jan. 1, 2018. It also would postpone until Jan. 1, 2019, a provision that would allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries if they will be 18 by Election Day. The bill now heads back to the Senate.
By a 36-13 vote, the Senate has approved a bill requiring city and school elections to be held on the same day. The elections will be held after the first Monday in November during odd-number years. The bill now heads to Gov. Terry Branstad’s desk.
Kentucky: Clerks statewide are cheering a bill that, if signed by Gov. Matt Bevins (R) would allow local option elections to be held simultaneously with primary and general elections. Most local options elections decide whether or not to allow alcohol sales in an area. The bill also allows those who can’t vote in person on Election Day because of age, disability or illness, to cast an in-person absentee ballot at the county clerk’s office prior to an election.
Montana: Gov. Steve Bullock used his veto power to resurrect the possibility of an all-mail special election on May 25. According to KRTV, Bullock issued an amendatory veto to insert the mail-ballot option into another bill that is now going back to lawmakers for consideration. Under this procedure, the bill can be approved by a simple majority of the House and Senate. The Montana Association of Clerks and Recorders and Election Administrators has sent a letter to House Speaker Austin Knudsen seeking to have the bill brought to the House floor.
In non-special election news, a House committee has approved a bill that would create a ballot initiative that would prohibit the collection of a voter’s ballot to take it to a polling place, election office or the post office. The bill provides exceptions for family members, caregivers and acquaintances who are authorized to pick up ballots.
Nebraska: Senators vote 28-8 to eliminate the state’s two-year waiting period for ex-felons to have their voting rights restored.
New Hampshire: Legislation to allow for a pilot program of e-poll books in New Hampshire has been approved by the Senate and is currently awaiting a vote in the House. Proponents hope it will help eliminate lines at polling places, but those with concerns about the program—including Secretary of State William Gardner—have cited cybersecurity and back systems as their major concern.
New Mexico: Gov. Susana Martinez used a pocket veto to kill a bill that would have consolidated most local elections into one beginning in 2019. According to New Mexico Politics, The pocket veto was a defense of local laws requiring photo identification to vote, Martinez spokesman Chris Sanchez said. “It would have taken away voter ID in the local jurisdictions that have implemented it,” Sanchez said. “The governor is a strong supporter of voter ID.”
North Carolina: Under legislation introduced by Rep. Carl Ford (R-76) how members of boards of elections in Davie, Rowan and Stanly counties are appointed would change. If it becomes law, the measure — House Bill 508 — would tie the majority on the three boards of elections to the majority on each county’s board of commissioners.
Also in North Carolina, the Senate voted not to go along with a House bill that would merge the ethics and elections commissions. Instead, the bill was sent to a conference committee of Senate and House members to work out a compromise. Gov. Roy Cooper said last week he would veto the bill because it curtails voting rights. It also deprives the governor of the power to control the boards through appointments.
Pennsylvania: Rep. Chris Rabb (D-Philadelphia) said he plans to introduce legislation that would establish early voting 15 days before an election as well as allowing for no-excuse absentee voting.
Texas: Lawmakers are considering Senate Bill 148 which would repeal a section of the state’s election code that requires interpreters to be registered voters in the same county in which they are providing help.
Washington: Senate Bill 5472 is on its way to the governor’s desk. If signed into law, the legislation would add about 250 to 275 ballot dropboxes statewide. It requires at least one ballot dropbox for every 15,000 registered voters.