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Expert Brief

Voting Laws Roundup 2013

Election 2012 was marred by problems for voters nationwide. One year later, an encouraging number of states have taken steps to provide voters more access to the ballot box, but others have still tried to restrict access.

Published: December 19, 2013

Also see our roundup of voting law changes in 2012 and 2014.

Elec­tion 2012 was marred by prob­lems for voters nation­wide. The north­east was beset by Super­storm Sandy, displa­cing hundreds of thou­sands of registered voters on Elec­tion Day. Across the coun­try, millions of Amer­ic­ans stood in long lines at crowded polling stations to exer­cise their right to vote.

One year later, an encour­aging number of states have taken steps to provide voters more access to the ballot box. At least 237 bills were intro­duced in 46 states to increase access. Unfor­tu­nately, others have restric­ted access — 33 states intro­duced 92 restrict­ive bills — and the Supreme Court has made it easier for some of them to do so by strik­ing down a key provi­sion of the Voting Rights Act. While 10 states passed 13 bills in 2013 to expand voting oppor­tun­it­ies, eight states passed nine restrict­ive laws.

We will continue to monitor voting changes in the lead up to the 2014 legis­lat­ive session. Already, four states have pre-filed elec­tion bills we will be watch­ing with interest next year — includ­ing three meas­ures to restrict voting, and six to expand it.

Numbers Over­view

Since the begin­ning of 2013, and as of Decem­ber 18, 2013, restrict­ive voting bills have been intro­duced in more than half the states:

  • At least 92 restrict­ive bills were intro­duced in 33 states.
  • Of those, 13 restrict­ive bills are still pending in 5 states.
  • Of those, 5 restrict­ive bills are currently active in 2 states, [1] in that there has been legis­lat­ive activ­ity beyond intro­duc­tion and refer­ral to commit­tee (such as hear­ings, commit­tee activ­ity, or votes).
  • 8 states have already passed 9 restrict­ive bills this session.

At the same time, across the coun­try, politi­cians from both sides of the aisle have intro­duced and suppor­ted bills that expand access to regis­tra­tion and voting.  

  • At least 237 expans­ive bills that would expand access to voting were intro­duced in 46 states.
  • Of those, 73 expans­ive bills are still pending in 7 states.
  • Of those, 17 expans­ive bills are currently active in 4 states,[2] in that there has been legis­lat­ive activ­ity beyond intro­duc­tion and refer­ral to commit­tee (such as hear­ings, commit­tee activ­ity, or votes).
  • 10 states have passed 13 bills that expand oppor­tun­it­ies for eligible citizens to register and to vote.

Voting Restric­tions

Restrictive Voting Legislation in 2013

Note: In the cases where more than one piece of restrict­ive legis­la­tion has been intro­duced in a state, the map reflects the state’s passed, active, or pending status based on its most active piece of legis­la­tion.

Restric­tions Passed in 2013 

Arkan­sas:

  • Photo ID required to vote (legis­lature over­rode gubernat­orial veto).

Indi­ana

  • Author­izes chal­lengers to demand proof of iden­ti­fic­a­tion.

Montana

  • Refer­en­dum to repeal Elec­tion Day Regis­tra­tion, placed on the ballot for 2014.

Nebraska

  • Reduces the early voting period.

North Caro­lina

  • Photo ID required to vote, elim­in­ates same-day regis­tra­tion, elim­in­ates pre-regis­tra­tion for 16– and 17-year-old citizens, reduces the early voting period.

North Dakota

  • Photo ID required to vote.

Tennessee

  • More restrict­ive Photo ID require­ment.

Virginia:

  • Photo ID required to vote.
  • Restric­tions on third party regis­tra­tion.

Summary of Intro­duced and Pending Restrict­ive Voting Legis­la­tion (see a detailed summary of passed and pending laws)

  • Iden­ti­fic­a­tion laws
    • Photo ID laws. At least 25 states intro­duced legis­la­tion either requir­ing voters to show photo ID at the polls or making exist­ing photo ID laws more restrict­ive.[3]
    • Proof of citizen­ship laws. At least eight states intro­duced legis­la­tion requir­ing proof of citizen­ship, such as a birth certi­fic­ate, to register or vote.[4]
  • Making voter regis­tra­tion harder. At least eight states intro­duced bills to end Elec­tion Day or same-day voter regis­tra­tion, limit voter regis­tra­tion mobil­iz­a­tion efforts, and reduce other regis­tra­tion oppor­tun­it­ies.[5]
  • Redu­cing early voting oppor­tun­it­ies. At least eight states intro­duced bills that limit exist­ing oppor­tun­it­ies to vote early in person.[6]
  • Making it harder to restore voting rights. At least two states intro­duced legis­la­tion that would further restrict the right to vote to persons with crim­inal convic­tions.[7]
  • Making it harder for students to vote. At least two states proposed legis­la­tion that would make it harder for students to register and vote.[8]

Enhan­cing Voter Access

Laws to expand access to voting in 2013

 

Note: In the cases where more than one piece of expans­ive legis­la­tion has been intro­duced in a state, the map reflects the state’s passed, active, or pending status based on its most active piece of legis­la­tion.

A new influx of bills to enhance voter access drew support on both sides of the aisle.

Expans­ive Voting Laws Passed in 2013 

Color­ado

  • Broad-based modern­iz­a­tion of voter regis­tra­tion process, includ­ing, among other elements, Elec­tion Day regis­tra­tion and port­able regis­tra­tion. More inform­a­tion is avail­able here.
  • Preregis­tra­tion of eligible 16– and 17-year-old citizens.

Delaware:

  • Consti­tu­tional amend­ment expand­ing oppor­tun­it­ies for people with crim­inal convic­tions to regain their right to vote.

Flor­ida

  • Expan­sion of early voting oppor­tun­it­ies.

Illinois

  • Online voter regis­tra­tion.

Mary­land:

  • Expan­sion of early voting, same-day regis­tra­tion during early voting, study meth­ods to reduce long lines at the polls.

New Hamp­shire:

  • Exist­ing photo ID law made less restrict­ive.[9]

New Mexico:

  • Auto­ma­tion of voter regis­tra­tion at the DMV office.

Oklahoma:

  • Exist­ing photo ID law made less restrict­ive.

Virginia:

  • Online voter regis­tra­tion.

West Virginia:

  • Online voter regis­tra­tion.

Summary of Intro­duced and Pending Legis­la­tion to Expand Access to Voting

  • Iden­ti­fic­a­tion Laws. At least 11 states[10] intro­duced bills that would relax exist­ing voter ID or proof of citizen­ship laws.
  • Modern­iz­ing Voter Regis­tra­tion. At least 26 states[11] intro­duced bills that would modern­ize the voter regis­tra­tion system, in whole or in part, and make it easier for eligible citizens to register.
    • Broad-based modern­iz­a­tion. At least four states[12] intro­duced wide-ranging legis­la­tion to modern­ize the voter regis­tra­tion process using a combin­a­tion of tech­no­logy and fail-safe protec­tions. Both houses of Congress intro­duced compre­hens­ive bills to modern­ize voter regis­tra­tion.
    • Auto­ma­tion. At least six states[13] intro­duced legis­la­tion that would intro­duce or expand auto­ma­tion of the voter regis­tra­tion process at govern­ment agen­cies.
    • Online regis­tra­tion. At least 13 states[14] intro­duced bills that would estab­lish or enhance the use of online regis­tra­tion systems.
    • Same day regis­tra­tion. At least 19 states[15] intro­duced bills that would allow voters to register on the same day they vote. Same day regis­tra­tion (SDR) bills can vary in that some allow same day regis­tra­tion on Elec­tion Day only (EDR), some allow it during an early voting period only, and some may allow both options.
    • Port­ab­il­ity. At least four states[16] intro­duced bills that would allow a voter’s regis­tra­tion to move with her when she moves to a new address in the state.
  • More early voting oppor­tun­it­ies. At least 20 states[17] intro­duced bills that would newly intro­duce, or expand, oppor­tun­it­ies for early in person voting. While New Jersey passed a bill to intro­duce early voting in the state, Governor Christie vetoed it on May 9, 2013.
  • Restor­ing voting rights. At least 14 states[18] intro­duced bills that would expand oppor­tun­it­ies for those with crim­inal convic­tions to regain their right to vote. In Virginia, Governor Robert McDon­nell issued an exec­ut­ive order auto­mat­ic­ally restor­ing the right to vote upon comple­tion of sentence for those with past non-viol­ent crim­inal convic­tions.
  • Pre-regis­ter­ing students to vote. At least 13 states[19] intro­duced bills that would allow students under the age of 18 to pre-register, so that upon turn­ing 18 they are registered to vote.
  • Redu­cing long lines. At least four states[20] intro­duced bills that aim to reduce wait­ing times by requir­ing, or assess­ing, the imple­ment­a­tion of minimum stand­ards for effi­cient polling place admin­is­tra­tion.

Look­ing to 2014

States are already begin­ning to file bills in prepar­a­tion for the 2014 legis­lat­ive session. At least four states have intro­duced voting laws we will be watch­ing. In Missouri, three bills have been pre-filed that would require voters to show photo ID at the polls. In Kentucky, three bills have been pre-filed that would restore voting rights to persons with past crim­inal convic­tions. A bill that would restore voting rights was also pre-filed in Virginia. In Flor­ida, two bills have been intro­duced that would make it easier for eligible citizens to register to vote. Check back here for regu­lar updates on what we can expect in the next session.


[1] Massachu­setts, Ohio.

[2] Massachu­setts, New York, Pennsylvania, South Caro­lina.

[3] Alaska, Arkan­sas, Connecti­cut, Illinois, Indi­ana, Iowa, Mary­land, Massachu­setts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Caro­lina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Wash­ing­ton, West Virginia, Wyom­ing. 

[4] Massachu­setts, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Caro­lina, Texas, Virginia.

[5] Alabama, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Caro­lina, Ohio, Texas, Virginia.

[6] Arizona, Indi­ana, Nebraska, North Caro­lina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Wiscon­sin. As of Decem­ber 18, 2013, a bill is still active in Ohio.

[7] Maine, North Caro­lina.

[8] North Caro­lina, Ohio.

[9] Although the New Hamp­shire bill is not expans­ive with respect to current law, it eases certain require­ments that had not yet been imple­men­ted, but would have gone into effect Septem­ber 2013 under a restrict­ive photo voter ID law passed by the legis­lature in 2011.

[10] Alabama, Indi­ana, Kansas, New Hamp­shire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Caro­lina, Tennessee, Texas, Wiscon­sin. 

[11] Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Color­ado, Delaware, Flor­ida, Geor­gia, Hawaii, Illinois, Mary­land, Massachu­setts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Caro­lina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia. As of Decem­ber 18, 2013, bills remain active in Massachu­setts.

[12] Color­ado, Massachu­setts, Nevada, New York. As of Decem­ber 18, 2013, a bill remains active in Massachu­setts.

[13] Flor­ida, Hawaii, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, West Virginia.

[14] Flor­ida, Illinois, Massachu­setts, Michigan, Montana, New York, North Caro­lina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia. As of Decem­ber 18, 2013, bills are still active in Massachu­setts and Pennsylvania.

[15] Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Geor­gia, Hawaii, Illinois, Mary­land, Massachu­setts, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Caro­lina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia. As of Decem­ber 18, 2013, a bill remains active in Massachu­setts.

[16] Flor­ida, Massachu­setts, New York, Oregon. As of Decem­ber 18, 2013, a bill remains active in Massachu­setts.

[17] Connecti­cut, Flor­ida, Geor­gia, Illinois, Maine, Mary­land, Massachu­setts, Minnesota, Missis­sippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Caro­lina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Caro­lina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia. As of Decem­ber 18, 2013, bills remain active in Massachu­setts, New York, and South Caro­lina.

[18] Cali­for­nia, Delaware, Flor­ida, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisi­ana, Minnesota, Missis­sippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee, Virginia, Wyom­ing. 

[19] Cali­for­nia, Color­ado, Connecti­cut, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachu­setts, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Wash­ing­ton. As of Decem­ber 18, 2013, bills remain active in Massachu­setts and New York.

[20] Arizona, Connecti­cut, Mary­land, Virginia.