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Expert Brief

Voting Laws Roundup 2014

Voting rights continues to be a highly contentious issue in America. This is the Brennan Center’s regularly-updated, comprehensive roundup of introduced, pending, active, and passed voting bills.

Published: December 18, 2014

Voting rights contin­ues to be a highly conten­tious issue in Amer­ica. Start­ing after the 2010 midterm elec­tions, legis­lat­ors in dozens of states intro­duced scores of laws to make it harder to vote. Voters and advoc­ates pushed back at the ballot box and the courts. Some lawmakers star­ted push­ing laws that improve access to the ballot box.

Below you will find a regu­larly-updated, compre­hens­ive roundup of intro­duced, pending, active, and passed voting bills.[1]

See our roundup of voting law changes since the 2010 elec­tion. Also see our roundup of voting law changes in 2012 and 2013.

Numbers Over­view

Since the begin­ning of 2014, and as of Novem­ber 11, 2014, legis­lat­ors from both sides of the aisle have intro­duced and suppor­ted bills that expand access to regis­tra­tion and voting:

  • At least 340 expans­ive bills that would increase access to voting were intro­duced in 42 states plus the District of Columbia whose legis­latures have had floor activ­ity in 2014.

Vigil­ance is still required, as numer­ous restrict­ive voting bills have been intro­duced in a number of states:

  • At least 83 restrict­ive bills were intro­duced in 29 states whose legis­latures have had floor activ­ity in 2014.

Enhan­cing Voter Access

Note: In the cases where more than one piece of expans­ive legis­la­tion has been intro­duced in a state, the map reflects the states passed, active, or pending status based on the piece of legis­la­tion that has advanced farthest in the legis­lat­ive process.

A new influx of bills to enhance voter access is draw­ing support on both sides of the aisle, many bear­ing much simil­ar­ity to the recom­mend­a­tions offered by the pres­id­ent’s bipar­tisan commis­sion. Efforts to modern­ize our voter regis­tra­tion system are partic­u­larly preval­ent.

Expans­ive Voting Laws Passed in 2014

Cali­for­nia

  • A.B. 1589: Stream­lines ballot requests for milit­ary voters.
  • S.B. 1063: Provides voter regis­tra­tion assist­ance to eligible applic­ants in juven­ile deten­tion facil­it­ies.
  • S.B. 113: Expands pre-regis­tra­tion to vote to 16-year-old citizens.

Color­ado

  • S.B. 161: Expands language access for voters who speak a language other than English.

Hawaii

  • H.B. 452: Prohib­its distri­bu­tion of false inform­a­tion about the time, date, place, or means of voting with the purpose of inter­fer­ing with the fran­chise.
  • H.B. 2590: Estab­lishes same-day regis­tra­tion at absentee polling places start­ing in 2016, and Elec­tion-Day regis­tra­tion at polling places start­ing in 2018.

Illinois

  • H.J.R.C.A. 52 / H.J.R. 102: Places a ballot meas­ure before voters to estab­lish consti­tu­tional protec­tions against discrim­in­a­tion in voting. Voters approved the meas­ure in the Novem­ber 2014 elec­tion.
  • H.B. 105: Estab­lishes pilot program to expand early voting for 2014 general elec­tion; estab­lishes pilot program for same-day regis­tra­tion for 2014 general elec­tion; expands oppor­tun­it­ies for students to vote.

Louisi­ana

  • H.B. 501: Permits 16– and 17-year-old citizens to pre-register to vote when they apply for their driver’s license.

Massachu­setts

  • H.B. 4072: Estab­lishes online regis­tra­tion; permits 16– and 17-year-old citizens to pre-register to vote; estab­lishes early voting start­ing 11 busi­ness days before the elec­tion until the second busi­ness day before the elec­tion.

Minnesota

  • H.F. 2096: Estab­lishes online regis­tra­tion.

Missis­sippi

  • H.B. 624: Expands access to absentee ballots for deployed emer­gency response providers.

Nebraska

  • L.B. 661: Estab­lishes elec­tronic regis­tra­tion at DMVs; estab­lishes online regis­tra­tion.

Oklahoma

  • H.B. 2576: Expands access to absentee ballots for voters living on tribal lands.

South Caro­lina

  • S.B. 825: Expands absentee voting options for milit­ary voters and their famil­ies.

Utah

  • H.B. 156: Estab­lishes pilot program for Elec­tion Day regis­tra­tion.
  • S.B. 117: Allows registered voters without a DMV signa­ture to update their regis­tra­tion inform­a­tion online.
  • S.B. 135: Gives voters more time to register through certain meth­ods.

 Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Summary of Intro­duced and Pending Legis­la­tion to Expand Access to Voting

  • Modern­iz­ing voter regis­tra­tion. At least 29 states plus the District of Columbia have intro­duced bills that would modern­ize their voter regis­tra­tion systems, in whole or in part, and make it easier for eligible citizens to register.[3] Bills to modern­ize voter regis­tra­tion have passed in 6 states plus the District of Columbia: Hawaii, Illinois, Massachu­setts, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Utah.
    • Broad-based modern­iz­a­tion. At least 3 states have intro­duced wide-ranging legis­la­tion to modern­ize the voter regis­tra­tion process using some combin­a­tion of elec­tronic trans­fer of voter regis­tra­tion inform­a­tion, online regis­tra­tion, port­ab­il­ity, and fail-safe protec­tions.[4]
    • Elec­tronic regis­tra­tion. At least 6 states have intro­duced bills that would allow for elec­tronic trans­fer of voter regis­tra­tion inform­a­tion at state agen­cies.[5]
    • Online regis­tra­tion. At least 18 states plus the District of Columbia have intro­duced bills that would estab­lish or enhance the use of online regis­tra­tion systems.[6]
    • Same-day regis­tra­tion. At least 19 states have intro­duced bills that would allow voters to register on the same day they vote.[7] 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 6 states have introduced bills that would allow a voter’s regis­tra­tion to move with her when she moves to a new address within the same county or state.[8]
  • More regis­tra­tion oppor­tun­it­ies. At least 9 states have intro­duced bills that would expand oppor­tun­it­ies to register to vote.[9]
  • Pre-regis­ter­ing students to vote. At least 13 states have intro­duced bills that would allow students under the age of 18 to pre-register, so that upon turn­ing 18 they are registered to vote.[10]
  • More early voting oppor­tun­it­ies. At least 23 states have intro­duced bills that would newly intro­duce, or expand, oppor­tun­it­ies for early in-person voting.[11]
  • Restor­ing voting rights. At least 12 states have intro­duced bills that would expand oppor­tun­it­ies for those with crim­inal convic­tions to regain their right to vote.[12]
  • Iden­ti­fic­a­tion laws. At least 11 states have intro­duced bills that would relax exist­ing voter ID or proof of citizen­ship laws.[13]
  • Making it easier for students to vote. At least 2 states have intro­duced bills that would make it easier for students to register and vote.[14]
  • Redu­cing long lines. At least 3 states have intro­duced bills to reduce wait­ing times by requir­ing, or assess­ing, the imple­ment­a­tion of minimum stand­ards for effi­cient polling place admin­is­tra­tion.[15]
  • Improv­ing disab­il­ity access. At least 5 states have intro­duced bills that would make it easier for voters with disab­il­it­ies to cast a ballot.[16]
  • Improv­ing language access. At least 2 states have intro­duced bills that would expand language access for voters who speak a language other than English.[17]
  • Improv­ing access for milit­ary voters. At least 7 states have intro­duced bills aimed at expand­ing oppor­tun­it­ies to vote for voters in the milit­ary.[18]
  • Expand­ing access to absentee ballots. At least 15 states have intro­duced bills aimed at expand­ing oppor­tun­it­ies to cast an absentee ballot.[19]
  • Guar­an­tee­ing the right to vote. At least 4 states have intro­duced bills that would amend their consti­tu­tions to guar­an­tee the right to vote.[20]
  • State preclear­ance. At least 3 states have intro­duced bills that would require a preclear­ance proced­ure modeled after Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.[21]
  • Improv­ing list main­ten­ance. At least 1 state has intro­duced a bill to improve voter list main­ten­ance to protect eligible indi­vidu­als against wrong­ful removal.[22]
  • Prevent­ing decept­ive prac­tices. At least 3 states have intro­duced bills that would make it a crime to know­ingly distrib­ute false inform­a­tion about an elec­tion to mislead voters.[23]

Voting Restric­tions

Note: In the cases where more than one piece of restrict­ive legis­la­tion has been intro­duced in a state, the map reflects the states passed, active, or pending status based on the piece of legis­la­tion that has advanced farthest in the legis­lat­ive process.

Restrict­ive Voting Laws Passed in 2014

Ohio

  • S.B. 205: Condi­tions any determ­in­a­tion by the Secret­ary of State to mail unso­li­cited absentee ballot applic­a­tions on legis­lat­ive fund­ing for that partic­u­lar mail­ing.
  • S.B. 216: Prohib­its indi­vidu­als who lack iden­ti­fic­a­tion or a Social Secur­ity number from voting even with a provi­sional ballot.
  • S.B. 238: Reduces early voting period and elim­in­ates same day regis­tra­tion by elim­in­at­ing the week during which voters could simul­tan­eously register to vote and cast a ballot early and in person.

Wiscon­sin

  • S.B. 324: Reduces early voting period and hours.

Summary of Intro­duced and Pending Restrict­ive Voting Legis­la­tion

  • Iden­ti­fic­a­tion laws
    • Photo ID laws. At least 19 states have intro­duced bills either requir­ing voters to show photo ID at the polls or making exist­ing photo ID laws more restrict­ive.[24]
    • Proof of citizen­ship laws. At least 4 states have intro­duced bills requir­ing proof of citizen­ship, such as a birth certi­fic­ate, to register or vote.[25]
  • Making voter regis­tra­tion harder. At least 13 states have intro­duced bills to limit voter regis­tra­tion mobil­iz­a­tion efforts and reduce other regis­tra­tion oppor­tun­it­ies.[26]
  • Redu­cing early voting oppor­tun­it­ies. At least 4 states have intro­duced bills to limit exist­ing oppor­tun­it­ies to vote early in person.[27]
  • Making it harder for students to vote. At least 2 states have intro­duced bills that would make it harder for students to register and vote.[28]
  • Redu­cing access to absentee ballots. At least 6 states have intro­duced bills that would reduce access to absentee ballots.[29]
  • Making voter purges worse. At least 2 states have intro­duced bills to limit protec­tions for voter purges and increase the chance of wrong­ful removal of eligible voters.[30]


[1] This docu­ment tracks certain voting legis­la­tion making it easier or harder to register or vote. Note that the numbers in this docu­ment do not tally several types of elec­tion- and voting-related legis­la­tion, includ­ing: ballot design, voting machines, enfran­chise­ment of people under 18 or non-citizens, public or indi­vidual notice require­ments, or expand­ing author­ity to conduct elec­tions primar­ily by mail ballot. The docu­ment also does not track other admin­is­trat­ive changes that could indir­ectly expand or restrict access, such as count­ing provi­sional ballots, or minor depar­tures from the status quo that are unlikely to have a substan­tial impact. The numbers in this docu­ment also do not reflect changes to rules for chal­len­ging voter eligib­il­ity. Addi­tion­ally, bills that carry over to the 2014 session from a prior session are included in the counts of “intro­duced” bills.

[2] For purposes of this docu­ment, a bill has passed if it has advanced through all required stages in the legis­lat­ive and exec­ut­ive branches, includ­ing signa­ture by a governor if neces­sary. Thus, in most cases a bill that has advanced through both houses of the legis­lature is not coun­ted as passed unless a governor has signed it. Certain types of legis­la­tion, such as resol­u­tions, can advance fully through the legis­lat­ive process without signa­ture by a governor; these are coun­ted as passed if they have cleared the legis­lat­ive branch. Legis­la­tion that places a ballot meas­ure before voters is coun­ted as passed, even if voters have not yet approved the meas­ure, as long as the legis­la­tion has advanced through all neces­sary stages of the legis­lat­ive and exec­ut­ive process. If a ballot meas­ure has been rejec­ted by voters, it is no longer coun­ted as passed. Accord­ingly, the contro­ver­sial Missouri meas­ure which would have allowed for six days of early voting, but would have set a consti­tu­tional limit on the legis­lature’s abil­ity to provide addi­tional early voting days is not coun­ted as passed at this time because it was rejec­ted by voters on Novem­ber 4, 2014.

[3] Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Cali­for­nia, Delaware, Flor­ida, Geor­gia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Massachu­setts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missis­sippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Caro­lina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Wash­ing­ton, Wash­ing­ton D.C., Wiscon­sin.

[4] Massachu­setts, Nebraska, New York.

[5] Cali­for­nia, Flor­ida, Geor­gia, Idaho, Missouri, New Jersey.

[6] Alabama, Flor­ida, Geor­gia, Idaho, Iowa, Massachu­setts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missis­sippi, New Jersey, New York, North Caro­lina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Wash­ing­ton D.C., Wiscon­sin.

[7] Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Geor­gia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachu­setts, Michigan, Missis­sippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Caro­lina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Wash­ing­ton.

[8] Geor­gia, Massachu­setts, Missis­sippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York.

[9] Cali­for­nia, Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Utah, Wash­ing­ton, Wiscon­sin. Of these states, New Jersey and New York intro­duced bills to desig­nate addi­tional agen­cies as voter regis­tra­tion agen­cies under the National Voter Regis­tra­tion Act (NVRA). Addi­tion­ally, Idaho, which is exempt from the NVRA’s “motor voter” require­ment, intro­duced a bill to provide for voter regis­tra­tion at state DMV offices.

[10] Arizona, Cali­for­nia, Iowa, Louisi­ana, Massachu­setts, Michigan, Missis­sippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Virginia, Wash­ing­ton.

[11] Arizona, Cali­for­nia, Flor­ida, Geor­gia, Illinois, Louisi­ana, Maine, Mary­land, Massachu­setts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missis­sippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Caro­lina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Caro­lina, Tennessee, Virginia.

[12] Arizona, Flor­ida, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisi­ana, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Virginia, Wiscon­sin, Wyom­ing.

[13] Arizona, Kansas, New Hamp­shire, North Caro­lina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Caro­lina, Tennessee, Wiscon­sin.

[14] Illinois, New York.

[15] Arizona, Ohio, Wash­ing­ton.

[16] Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Caro­lina.

[17] Color­ado, New York.

[18] Cali­for­nia, Flor­ida, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, South Caro­lina.

[19] Indi­ana, Iowa, Mary­land, Michigan, Missis­sippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Caro­lina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia. While not coun­ted here, legis­la­tion has been proposed in at least 8 states to expand author­ity to conduct elec­tions primar­ily by mail ballots. Such bills have been intro­duced in Alaska, Arizona, Cali­for­nia, Color­ado, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, and Utah.

[20] Flor­ida, Hawaii, Illinois, New York.

[21] Cali­for­nia, Flor­ida, New York.

[22] Virginia.

[23] Hawaii, New Jersey, Wiscon­sin.

[24] Alaska, Color­ado, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Mary­land, Massachu­setts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hamp­shire, New Jersey, New York, North Caro­lina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Wash­ing­ton, West Virginia.

[25] Massachu­setts, Oklahoma, South Caro­lina, Utah.

[26] Alabama, Arizona, Color­ado, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Caro­lina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Vermont, Wiscon­sin.

[27] Geor­gia, North Caro­lina, Ohio, Wiscon­sin.

[28] New Hamp­shire, North Caro­lina.

[29] Arizona, Iowa, Kentucky, Ohio, South Caro­lina, Wash­ing­ton.

[30] Nebraska, Virginia.