III. Legislative Updates
California: AB 363 has received unanimous approval from the Assembly Elections Committee. Under the proposed bill, elections officials will be allowed to begin retrieving ballots from polling places on election day before the polls have closed. Assemblyman Marc Steinorth, the bill’s sponsor, argues that the legislation will allow geographically large counties more time to get ballots to central polling locations and allow officials to begin releasing results faster once the polls have closed.
The Senate has approved SB 505 that would ensure that California’s Voter Bill of Rights and other election materials are provided to voters in plain, accessible and easily understandable language. The bill provides the secretary of state with the authority to revise election material wording and implement plain language techniques that are easy to understand and free from technical terms.
Florida: Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation into law that will move the Sunshine State to online voter registration by 2017. In his signing letter Scott cited some hesitations about signing the bill including implementation and security but said that he ultimately was confident the secretary of state’s office and Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles could get the system up and running.
Illinois: House Bill 1452 would require that election information be printed in a foreign language if a precinct has at least 10 percent of its people speaking that language and who have been identified as having limited proficiency in English. This legislation would differ from Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act because it would be precinct to precinct whereas Section 203 covers entire jurisdictions, not just one precinct in a jurisdiction.
Democratic Senators Andy Manar and Daniel Biss have filed legislation that would automatically register Illinoisians to vote whenever the update or renew a driver’s license or state ID.
Kansas: By a 63-57 vote, the House has given preliminary approval to legislation that would give the secretary of state’s off the power to prosecute alleged voter fraud. According to The Wichita Eagle, if the majority holds, the bill that has already been approved by the Senate will go to the governor’s desk.
Maryland: Still no word on when or even if Gov. Larry Hogan will sign legislation into law that would restore the voting rights of about 44,000 ex-felons. If Hogan does not sign or veto the bipartisan legislation it would automatically become law on June 1.
Michigan: After a mistake left most candidates off the Flint ballot this year, the state Legislature is considering a proposal that would extend the city’s filing deadline. The problem arose when Clerk Inez Brown gave candidates a filing deadline that was a week later than the actual deadline. The deadline cannot be extended without legislation. The full Senate approved the extension on the same day the Genesee County election commission sent the ballots to the printer without the Flint races.
Minnesota: In other ex-felon voting rights news, the push to restore them in Minnesota is on hold until at least next year after language restoring them was removed from a budget bill funding courts and public safety programs.
Nebraska: Sen. Paul Schumacher has once again introduced legislation that would require county elections offices to include a privacy sleeve with vote-by-mail ballots. Schumacher said he has heard from numerous constituents who have expressed fears about their right to a secret ballot. The Omaha World News reports that the bill is unlikely to advance again this year, although the Senate Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee has indicated it will study the proposal this summer.
Nevada: With less than two weeks remaining in the session, it seems that legislation to move Nevada’s primary to February and do away with the state’s caucus system will not move forward.