IV. Legislative Updates
Maine: A bill sponsored by the secretary of state’s office would ban the gathering of voter signatures at polling places on Election Day. “It’s really not a shadow effort to restrict the people’s right to petition their government,” Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap told the Portland Press Herald. “That is not our intent.” He said the changes are more a result of complaints from voters themselves and polling place officials who want to maintain orderly and “civilized” polling places. “Sometimes signature gatherers are very, very aggressive,” Dunlap told the paper. “They take things right to the very edge and it causes issues.”
Minnesota: January 1 marked the start of a new law which establishes five uniform dates throughout the year for special local elections. A special election in a city, town or school district must be held on one of the following dates: The second Tuesday in February; the second Tuesday in April; the second Tuesday in May; the second Tuesday in August (state primary date); or the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November (general election date). A special election may only be held on a different date if it is held in response to an emergency or disaster.
Nevada: The Clark County commission voted this week to end a decades-long practice of automatically mailing absentee ballots to voters in precincts with small populations. The county’s move to vote centers spurred the decision. “There’s no sense in sending out a $5, $6 mail ballot to someone who will likely surrender it to vote on a machine,” Registrar Joe Gloria told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The change will affect about 4,800 voters and save the county $50,000.
New Hampshire: Several elections-related bills have been introduced in the early days of the legislative session including one that would move the state to a ranked choice voting system and another that would mandate poll workers provide information on New Hampshire driver’s license laws to anyone registering with an out-of-state license. Another bill would remove the state from the Crosscheck program and another would give town moderates the authority to delay or change elections due to weather emergencies.
Also in New Hampshire, in a 14-9 party-line vote, the Senate approved House Bill 372 which establishes a new definition of residency in order to register to vote. The bill must now go back to the House to reconcile changes. Gov. Chris Sununu has voiced his opposition to the bill.
Utah: Rep. Bruce Cutler (R) is proposing legislation that would eliminate straight-ticket voting in Utah. Utah is one of eight states that still allows straight-ticket voting. "When you go out to the polls and vote, sometimes it’s nice to check one number. You’ve got a lot of people waiting behind you," Cutler told Fox 13. "But now that we do most of the voting by mail, you have all the time in the world to research and look at the candidates."
Also in Utah. Rep. Stephen Handy (R-Layton) has introduced a bill that would automatically register residents vote when they receive a new or renew their driver’s license. Handy said he has the support of county clerks.