V. Legislative Updates
Federal Legislation: Outgoing Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) has introduced The Right To Vote Act of 2015. Under the legislation, states that require photo ID to cast a ballot would be required to provide free IDs for those in need, would exempt senior citizens from having to show ID and allow all people without an ID to cast a provisional ballot.
Alabama’s congressional delegation introduced legislation this week that would award the Congressional Gold Medal to those who marched and were beaten by state troopers in the fight for voting rights in the 1960s. It is expected the legislation will become law by March 7, the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
Alaska: Rep. Bob Lynn (R-Anchorage) has pre-filed legislation that would require voters to show a state-issued government photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Lynn has introduced similar legislation in the past, which proved unsuccessful.
District of Columbia: D.C. Councilmember David Gross (I-At-Large) has introduced a bill that would allow certain noncitizens to cast ballots in local elections. According to Census statistics, about 54,000 District residents are foreign-born, but not naturalized U.S. citizens. Similar legislation was introduced in 2004 and 2013.
Hawaii: The 2015 legislative session opened this week with Senate President Donna Mercado Kim saying approving legislation to move to all-mail voting for two upcoming elections.
Indiana: House Bill 1008 would eliminate straight-ticket voting in the Hoosier State. “As we revolutionize elections and technology continues to creep into the way we campaign and the information available to voters, it’s clear folks are looking at candidates rather than party affiliation,” Rep Dave Ober (R-Albion), told the Journal Gazette. Currently only 12 states allow for straight-ticket voting and there is pending legislation in several of those states to eliminate it.
Iowa: Several pieces of elections-related legislation have been introduced including SF 10 which would change the state’s primary process to include a runoff system if the top vote getter doesn’t meet the existing 35 percent threshold; HF 4 would eliminate straight-ticket voting; HF 29 would allow cities of 200 people or less to conduct their elections solely by mail; and HF 28 would create online voter registration.
Missouri: Senate Bill 34 extends the voter registration deadline for military overseas voters serving in active combat areas.
Also in the Show Me State, members of the Jackson County board of elections are hoping to work with legislators to close schools on election days since state law requires that schools be used as polling locations.
Montana: While it’s still very in in the legislative season, the first elections-related bill has met its fate in the House State Administration committee. The committee voted to kill HB 18 that would have given counties the option of using 16 and 17-year olds as apprentices at polling places during elections. "I am very disappointed in what can only be described as shameless partisanship,” Secretary of State Linda McCulloch said in a statement. “There was not a good reason to vote against this measure and many good reasons to vote for it, which is why 39 other states currently use student election judges.”
North Dakota: Rep. Corey Mock (D-Grand Forks) has introduced legislation that will, as he told Prairie Public Radio, start the conversation on making changes to the state’s voter ID law. The legislation would once again allow voters to use affidavits as proof of ID, something they were permitted to do prior to 2013.
Oklahoma: Several pieces of elections legislation have been introduced including bills to move Oklahoma to an all vote-by-mail state by 2020; creating a top-two primary system; online voter registration; permanent absentee voting; adding Wednesdays and Saturday afternoons to early voting; and allowing same-day registration during early voting.
Oregon: Once again this year, Secretary of State Kate Brown says she has plans to propose legislation that would use motor vehicle records to automatically register Oregonians to vote. According to Brown, if approved, the law would add about 300,000 people to the state’s voter rolls. Legislation was introduced in 2013 but failed along party lines.
South Carolina: Senate Bill 318, introduced by Senator Geraldy Malloy (D-29th District) would allow a voter without a valid photo ID to make a written affirmation of identity to be able to cast a provisional ballot.
South Dakota: A package of election reform legislation has overcome its first hurdles this week by clearing two Senate panels. The legislation would allow the secretary of state’s office to randomly audit signatures on statewide candidate petitions and another piece of legislation would create a “drop dead” deadline for lawsuits for ballot initiatives.
Washington: House Bill 1379 would eliminate elections in February and April and instead limit elections to August primaries and the November general election—special elections and recalls excepted. Senate Bill 5344 would require that return envelopes for primary and general elections include prepaid postage. Counties would pay the postage and then get reimbursed by the state.
Wyoming: Despite concerns from rural lawmakers, legislation that allow Wyoming counties to move to a vote center system passed an initial vote late last week. Senate File 52 must pass two more rounds of voting before moving to the House.