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Voting Laws Roundup: February 2022

As the 2022 state legislative sessions begin, lawmakers have already introduced more new restrictive voting legislation than at this time last year. They have also continued to introduce bills designed to undermine the electoral process.

Published: February 9, 2022

Editor’s note: For the most recent edition of Voting Laws Roundup, click here

With the 2022 regular legislative sessions starting in all but 15 states as of January 14, state lawmakers are already considering hundreds of bills aimed at voter access and the electoral process. footnote1_6egpboj 1 Legislative sessions in Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin were scheduled to begin after January 14, 2022. Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and Texas do not hold regular session in even-numbered years.

The efforts to restrict voting have continued into this year. As of January 14, legislators in at least 27 states have introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 250 bills with restrictive provisions, compared to 75 such bills in 24 states on January 14, 2021. footnote2_6k5gcgo 2 Note that the Brennan Center released a January 2021 roundup that was updated as of January 26, 2021: https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-january-2021.  These figures include carryover bills, which are far more common this year (an even-numbered legislative year) than last (an odd-numbered year). When carryover bills are set aside to focus on new legislative activity — the pre-filed and introduced bills — the increase in restrictive bills is still stark: 96 bills would make it harder to vote in 12 states as of January 14, 2022, compared to 69 such bills in 23 states, a 39 percent increase.

In keeping with restrictive voting laws passed last year, state legislators have resumed the assault with legislation that, if enacted, would disproportionately impact voters of color.

Many state legislators, however, remain committed to expanding access to the ballot box. As of January 14, legislators in at least 32 states have introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 399 bills that expand voting access, compared to 286 such bills in 30 states on January 14, 2021. footnote3_ett2jew 3 Id.

Of the 33 state legislatures that are considering voting legislation as of January 14, 26 are considering both restrictive and expansive voting bills, and only one (South Carolina) is considering only restrictive voting legislation. Alabama, Florida, Maine, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont are currently only considering expansive voting bills.

This year, in addition to tracking bills that restrict or expand access to voting, we are tracking legislation that would undermine the integrity of the electoral process and empower partisans to manipulate election administration or outcomes. The unprecedented uptick of such bills that began last year has continued in 2022.

Like many of the bills restricting voting access, these bills are justified by the myth of widespread voter fraud and a stolen election. As of January 14, legislators in at least 13 states have pre-filed and introduced 41 bills that would undermine the electoral process. footnote4_3kmd7o1 4 Carryover bills are not included in our tracking of election sabotage bills.  These bills threaten the people and processes that make elections work. This legislation ranges from allowing any citizen to initiate or conduct new biased election audits; to imposing new criminal or civil penalties on election officials for making unintended errors; to allowing partisan actors to remove election officials from office. With these bills, state lawmakers are doubling down on efforts to undermine voters’ trust in elections. This legislation would open the door to manipulating election results for partisan reasons over accuracy.

As states approach the 2022 primaries and midterm elections, it is imperative that voting rights and the security of our elections remain a top priority on the state and federal levels.

End Notes

Restrictive Legislation

As of January 14, legislators in at least 27 states have introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 250 restrictive bills this year. footnote1_qy3sqfq 1 Restrictive bills are being considered in Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin. Provisions are categorized as restrictive if they would make it harder for Americans to register, stay on the rolls, and/or vote as compared to existing state law.  Of these, at least 96 bills in 12 states have been pre-filed or introduced for the 2022 legislative session. Like last year’s legislation, the restrictive bills being considered would primarily curtail access to mail voting and impose new or stricter voter ID requirements for in-person voting and registration. Other trends include new barriers for voters with disabilities, limiting or eliminating same-day voter registration, and new proof of citizenship requirements.  

Virginia leads the nation in new proposed restrictive voting legislation so far in 2022, with 34 pre-filed or introduced bills. Twenty-one of these bills would repeal provisions of current state law that ensure voter access to mail voting, including the permanent absentee voter list, drop boxes for the return of absentee ballots, and no-excuse absentee voting.

Restrictions on mail voting. Over half of the restrictive bills pre-filed or introduced for the 2022 legislative session target every stage of mail voting.

  • New barriers to applying for mail ballots. At least 18 bills in five states would impose new identification requirements for absentee ballot applications, including a voter’s Social Security number, driver’s license number, or vote record number. footnote2_orfk48m 2 IN H.B. 1220, IN H.B. 1317, IN S.B. 329, MD H.B. 212, MO H.B. 1646, MO H.B. 1911, MO H.B. 2113, SC H.B. 4622, VA H.B. 24, VA H.B. 46, VA H.B. 121, VA H.B. 305, VA H.B. 492, VA H.B. 779, VA H.B. 1090, VA S.B. 127, V.A. S.B. 168, V.A. SB 610.  Bills in Mississippi and South Carolina would shorten the time period for submitting an absentee ballot application. footnote3_eh6ioyd 3 MS H.B. 199, SC H.B. 4622.
  • Prohibition on sending unsolicited mail ballots or ballot applications. At least six bills in five states would prohibit election officials from sending out mail ballots or ballot applications unless a voter has affirmatively requested one. footnote4_7n3zrlx 4 AZ H.B. 2577, IN H.B. 1220, MO S.B. 695, MO H.B. 1483, NH H.B. 1153, NJ A.C.R. 44.  One of these bills in Missouri would subject elections officials to criminal prosecution, including possible imprisonment. footnote5_0n7035s 5 MO H.B. 1483.  This is in stark contrast to the six states that have enacted laws requiring mail ballots to automatically be sent to all voters for all elections. footnote6_rfw6c6g 6 California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Utah, and Washington. Vermont also automatically sends mail ballots to voters for general elections, not all elections.
  • Restrictions on returning mail ballots. Arizona and Virginia legislation would eliminate the use of drop boxes altogether or prohibit the use of unmonitored drop boxes. footnote7_1w6ibiu 7 AZ H.B. 2059, AZ H.B. 2577, VA H.B. 34, VA S.B. 236.  An Arizona bill would require voters to present identification when returning a mail ballot, and if an eligible person is returning a mail ballot on behalf of a voter, that person would be required to present identification and attest in writing that they are the voter’s family, household member, or caretaker. Failure to comply with these requirements would subject the individual to felony prosecution. footnote8_2psgnss 8 AZ H.B. 2241.  Another Arizona bill would eliminate this current narrow exception for family and household members or a caretaker to return a mail ballot on a voter’s behalf. footnote9_l5goags 9 AZ H.B. 2577.
  • Limitations on who can vote by mail. Thirteen bills in three states would curtail who can request an absentee ballot. footnote10_sa10bkf 10 MS H.B. 199, MO H.B. 1483, MO H.B. 1646, MO H.B. 1911, MO H.B. 1976, MO H.B. 2113, MO H.B. 2140, MO S.B. 633, MO S.B. 670, MO S.B. 679, MO S.B. 738, VA H.B. 35, VA S.B. 552.  A Mississippi bill would bar students who are away from the county where they are registered from casting a mail ballot. footnote11_phekjyh 11 MS H.B. 199.  A series of Missouri bills would require that the caretaker of an individual with an illness or disability reside at the same address as that individual to vote absentee. footnote12_1m6hwgl 12 MO H.B. 1646, MO H.B. 1911, MO H.B. 2113, MO H.B. 2140, MO S.B. 633, MO S.B. 670.  Virginia lawmakers have proposed bills that would eliminate no-excuse mail voting altogether. footnote13_in4xkal 13 VA H.B. 35, VA S.B. 552.
  • New grounds for rejecting mail ballots. Three bills in Missouri, New Jersey, and Washington propose new opportunities to reject a mail ballot. footnote14_bqc8z5e 14 MO S.B. 900, NJ A.B. 1139, WA H.B. 1778.  The Missouri bill would allow mail ballots to be rejected if the signature “does not appear to be valid,” a vague reason with no clear standards.

Stricter voter ID. At least 37 bills pre-filed or introduced this year in eight states would impose new or more stringent voter ID requirements for voter registration or in-person voting.

  • Eleven substantially similar bills in Virginia and 13 in Missouri would remove alternative forms of identification currently allowed under state law for a voter to cast a regular ballot, including a person’s voter confirmation document, a bank statement, and a government check, among others. footnote15_t8irfxl 15 MO H.B. 1454, MO H.B. 1483, MO H.B. 1646, MO H.B. 1878, MO H.B. 1911, MO H.B. 1976, MO H.B. 2113, MO S.B. 668, MO S.B. 670, MO S.B. 679, MO S.B. 695, MO S.B. 780, MO S.B. 861, VA H.B. 121, VA H.B. 305, VA S.B. 118, VA S.B. 127, VA S.B. 168, VA S.B. 610, VA H.B. 942, VA H.B. 779, VA H.B. 1090.  The Virginia bills would also require photographs on student IDs issued by institutions in the state to be accepted as valid voter identification.
  • The 13 Missouri bills and two New Hampshire bills would eliminate the option for a voter to cast a regular ballot by executing a statement of their identity or affidavit if they do not possess acceptable voter ID. footnote16_26z9w06 16 MO H.B. 1454, MO H.B. 1483, MO H.B. 1646, MO H.B. 1878, MO H.B. 1911, MO H.B. 1976, MO H.B. 2113, MO S.B. 668, MO S.B. 670, MO S.B. 679, MO S.B. 695, MO S.B. 780, MO S.B. 861, NH S.B. 418, NH H.B. 1542.
  • Eight bills in Illinois, Maryland, and New Jersey would establish an in-person voter ID requirement for the first time. footnote17_6zoad8d 17 IL S.B. 3057, IL H.B. 4484, MD H.B. 113, NJ A.B. 113, NJ A.B. 771, NJ A.B. 1423, NJ A.B. 1625, NJ S.B. 124.
  • A New Hampshire bill proposes a new voter registration form that would require voters to submit a photocopy of a photo ID when registering to vote. footnote18_rpfer4a 18 NH H.B. 1543.  Previously, a registrant’s driver’s license number was acceptable for registration.
  • An Arizona bill would reduce the list of acceptable forms of voter ID to a voter ID card and two of the following: signature, fingerprint, or an undefined unique security code. Among the now-acceptable forms of voter ID that would no longer be eligible: an Arizona driver’s license, tribal enrollment card, or two forms of non-photo ID with matching addresses (utility bill, bank statement, etc.). footnote19_uwa75xd 19 AZ H.B. 2577.

At least nine bills in three states that have been pre-filed or introduced this year would make it more difficult for voters with disabilities to cast a ballot. footnote20_utri8ns 20 MO S.B. 633, VA H.B. 24, VA H.B. 46, VA H.B. 121, VA H.B. 310, VA S.B. 127, VA S.B. 168, VA S.B. 552, WA H.B. 1778.  Five Virginia bills would repeal state law that currently allows a person who requests assistance “by reason of a physical disability or an inability to read or write” to receive assistance with completing an in-person ballot or an in-person application to vote by mail. footnote21_ajxe096 21 VA H.B. 24, VA H.B. 46, VA H.B. 121, VA S.B. 127, VA S.B. 168.  Other Virginia bills would repeal the permanent absentee voter list and reinstate a requirement for voters with disabilities to submit an annual application to vote by mail. footnote22_8xfpxis 22 VA H.B. 35, VA H.B. 310, VA S.B. 552.  A Washington bill would eliminate an existing state law requirement to provide access to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. footnote23_psq2awk 23 WA H.B. 1778.

At least 12 bills in two states pre-filed or introduced this year would loosen requirements to educate voters. An Indiana bill would repeal an existing law that requires voters who cast a provisional ballot to be informed on how to ensure their ballot is counted. footnote24_insi9lm 24 IN H.B. 1173.  Eleven Missouri bills would repeal an existing law that requires the secretary of state to provide advance notice of the identification requirements for voting in elections. footnote25_1xqkwoz 25 MO H.B. 1454, MO H.B. 1483, MO H.B. 1646, MO H.B. 1878, MO H.B. 1976, MO H.B. 2113, MO H.B. 1911, MO S.B. 668, MO S.B. 670, MO S.B. 695, MO S.B. 861.

The Arizona, Virginia, and Washington legislatures have proposed five bills this year that impose new proof of citizenship requirements to vote, register, or remain registered to vote. footnote26_rl1srkf 26 AZ S.C.R. 1005, AZ H.B. 2492, AZ H.B. 2577, VA S.B. 162, WA H.B. 1796.  The Washington bill would require county auditors to cancel the registration of all voters who have not previously shown proof of citizenship by obtaining an enhanced driver’s license or state ID. After cancellation, it would only give voters notice and an opportunity to cure registration by going to the auditor’s office in person and presenting a passport, birth certificate, or certificate of naturalization. footnote27_m9rnt4n 27 WA H.B. 1796.

End Notes

Expansive Legislation

As of January 14, legislators in at least 32 states have introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 399 bills that expand voting access. footnote1_bso4fbr 1 Expansive bills are being considered in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin. Provisions are categorized as expansive if they would make it easier for Americans to register, stay on the rolls, and/or vote as compared to existing state law.  Of these, at least 98 bills in 17 states have been pre-filed or introduced for the 2022 legislative session. Over a third of the new expansive legislation would ease mail voting. Other bills would make voter registration easier, including by establishing automatic voter registration (AVR), expanding voting rights to individuals with past convictions, easing access to early voting, and improving voting accessibility to voters with disabilities and who face language barriers.

Missouri leads for the number of expansive bills pre-filed or introduced for the 2022 legislative session with 26 bills.

Access to mail voting. Over one-third of the expansive voting bills that have been pre-filed or introduced for the 2022 legislative session address mail voting.

  • At least 11 bills in Indiana, Missouri, and Rhode Island would establish no-excuse absentee voting. footnote2_6dxaml3 2 IN S.B 221, MO H.B. 1650, MO H.B. 2318, MO H.B. 2320, MO H.B. 2044, MO H.B. 2046, MO S.B. 696, MO S.B. 730, MO S.B. 875 RI H.B. 7100, RI S.B. 2007.
  • Two Florida bills would provide for prepaid postage stamps on mail ballot return envelopes. footnote3_aj9u5mg 3 FL H.B. 1353, FL S.B. 694.  Two other Florida bills would incorporate an application to vote by mail in the online voter registration application and remove the current prohibition on government officials affirmatively sending out mail ballots. footnote4_lbdgeg1 4 FL S.B. 1586, FL S.B. 1722.
  • One Arizona bill would extend the deadline to receive and count mail ballots from 7 pm on Election Day to up to five days after Election Day, as long as the ballot was postmarked six days before Election Day. footnote5_6umqsb4 5 AZ H.B. 2071.  Another Arizona bill would repeal one of the provisions at issue in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, which imposes criminal penalties on individuals other than a voter’s family, household member, or caregiver who assist the voter in returning their mail ballot. footnote6_k778hik 6 AZ H.B. 2094.
  • Bills in Pennsylvania and Vermont would provide voters notice of a signature mismatch on their returned mail ballots and an opportunity to cure the defect, while bills in New Jersey would create a process for voters to correct a mail ballot that is missing their voter affidavit. footnote7_74607kp 7 NJ A.B. 365, NJ A.B. 2009, PA H.B. 2248, VT H.B. 404.

Voting rights restoration. At least 20 bills pre-filed or introduced in seven states would restore voting rights to individuals with past convictions or expand current voting rights restoration policies.

  • Seven Mississippi bills would offer a pathway for restoring voting rights to individuals with past felony convictions. footnote8_84pw6p4 8 MS H.B. 145, MS H.B. 196, MS H.B. 268, MS H.B. 377, MS H.B. 487, MS H.B. 630, MS H.B. 569.  Currently, Mississippi permanently disenfranchises individuals with certain disqualifying felony convictions.
  • A Missouri bill would restore voting rights to persons on probation or parole after a felony conviction. footnote9_t7qiemz 9 MO H.B. 1646.
  • A Florida bill would eliminate the requirement to pay fees and fines before being eligible for rights restoration. footnote10_8yy95qd 10 FL H.B. 6117.  This bill would restore the effect of Amendment 4, which the Florida electorate overwhelmingly approved in 2018, but was gutted by FL S.B. 7066. (The Brennan Center challenged FL S.B. 7066 in 2019.)
  • A series of eight Virginia bills would provide for automatic voting rights restoration to individuals upon release from incarceration for a felony conviction by constitutional amendment. Although this proposal already passed the legislature in 2021 (VA S.J.R. 2021), constitutional amendments require approval by a subsequent legislature before the proposal can be placed on the ballot for voters to weigh in. Currently in Virginia, the “Governor or other authority” must affirmatively restore voting rights to individuals with past felony convictions.

Easier voter registration. At least 34 bills pre-filed and introduced in 12 states would ease the process for registering to vote or maintaining one’s registration status.

  • Five state legislatures are considering bills that would establish automatic voter registration for the first time in the state. footnote11_afgx1xa 11 AZ H.B. 2402, FL S.B. 368, IN H.B. 1151, MS H.B. 223, MS H.B. 54, MO H.B. 2224, MO H.B. 2278.
  • The Florida bill would also extend the deadline to register to vote from 29 days before an election to 14 days. footnote12_sx0z11m 12 FL S.B. 368.
  • Six states are considering bills that would allow eligible individuals to register to vote on Election Day. footnote13_bdhrjo9 13 AZ H.B. 2402, FL H.B. 1353, IN H.B. 1364, MS H.B. 308, MO H.B. 2043, MO H.B. 2323, NJ A.B. 1926, NJ S.B. 247.
  • Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, and Washington each have bills that would institute or expand pre-registration for 16– and 17-year-olds. footnote14_pgaccbh 14 FL H.B. 1353, IL H.B. 4339, NJ S.B. 141, WA S.B. 5636.
  • Two bills, one in Mississippi and another in New Hampshire, would allow for online voter registration. footnote15_ehetzzf 15 MS H.B. 292, NH S.B. 425.
  • One South Dakota bill would allow registered voters to electronically submit changes to their registration. footnote16_qk16rla 16 SD S.B. 69.

Expanding access for voters with disabilities. At least seven pre-filed or introduced bills in four states will expand voting access to voters with disabilities. Two Missouri bills would require at least one voting machine per polling location for use by voters who are blind or visually impaired in election regions with more than 350,000 residents, and at least one such voting machine in elections regions with fewer than 350,000 residents. footnote17_oqem9pt 17 MO H.B. 2018, MO H.B. 2321.  A New Hampshire bill would require voter registration to be discussed as part of an education or accommodations plan for students with disabilities who are 17 years or older. footnote18_a5tqn66 18 NH H.B. 1594.  Two Rhode Island bills would extend the deadline for voters with certain disabilities to request a mail ballot. footnote19_z23w5hm 19 RI H.B. 7100, RI S.B. 2007.  An Indiana bill would allow voters with disabilities to join a permanent absentee voter list. footnote20_jeqtnzo 20 IN S.B. 71.

End Notes

Undermining the Electoral Process

In addition to legislation making it more difficult for voters to cast ballots, last year saw a large uptick in bills that could enable partisan interference in election administration. The most extreme of these “election sabotage” bills would have allowed partisan officials to simply reject election results. Most of them targeted fair election administration in other ways, such as by targeting election officials with new criminal and civil penalties for facilitating voter access, placing partisan actors in charge of election administration and vote counting, and using partisan election reviews to call fair and accurate election results into question.

This surge of election sabotage legislation continues in 2022. As of January 14, legislators in 13 states have pre-filed or introduced 41 bills that would undermine the electoral process, some of which mirror the 2021 legislation in their purpose and scope and some of which bring new legislative tactics to the attacks on democracy.

Arizona leads the country with nine election sabotage bills introduced so far in 2022, with Virginia (6), Missouri (6), and New Hampshire (5) close behind.

Bills Initiating Biased Election Reviews

Thirteen bills have been introduced in seven states that would initiate biased reviews of elections and election results that lack transparency and fail to satisfy basic security, accuracy, and reliability measures. These bills are part of a movement in state legislatures to undermine faith in the electoral process.

Citizen-initiated audits. Three bills in three states have been introduced that would allow for citizens to initiate or conduct a review of election results or election practices without basic security measures for the ballots or clear guidelines for how results are reviewed. These “citizen audit” bills are a new twist on the growing trend of partisan election review legislation as well as legislation that empowers citizen enforcers in other contexts.

  • One Missouri bill would allow any registered voter to request an audit of an election. If the request is signed by over 5 percent of registered voters in designated districts, an audit must be ordered and the election can’t be certified until after the audit is complete. footnote1_6nb6q8s 1 MO S.B. 695.
  • One New Hampshire bill would impose a new requirement that digital images of all ballots cast by voters be made publicly available for any citizen to perform a “citizens audit” by comparing the official count to the ballot images. The audit would not be subject to any pre-written standards for accuracy or reliability. Making these ballots available would enable any person, including partisan actors and individuals acting in bad faith, essentially unchecked ability to produce their own misleading and manipulative analyses. footnote2_is5x6lb 2 NH H.B. 1522.
  • One Virginia bill would allow for any elected official representing part of the jurisdiction, any election official in the jurisdiction, or any voter who presents a petition signed by 1,000 residents of the jurisdiction to initiate an audit of county or city election results. footnote3_kyhexld 3 VA S.B. 605.  The audit would not be subject to any pre-written standards for accuracy or reliability. The bill would mandate that the results of the audit be presented in a jury trial and would give the jury the power to overturn the election results without any mechanism for judicial review.

Audits of the 2020 general election. Eight bills in five states (Florida, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia), would require an audit of the 2020 general election statewide or in specific jurisdictions. footnote4_o7r1whp 4 FL H.B. 99, NH H.B. 1484, NH H.B. 1473, SC H.B. 4550, SC H.J.R. 4551, SC H.B. 4550, TN S.B. 1657, TN H.B. 1714, VA S.B. 605.  These kinds of bills, which also appeared in a number of states in 2021, show how the myth that the results of the 2020 election were fraudulent continues to grip state lawmakers.

Future audits of elections. Four bills in three states would require or authorize suspect audit processes in the future. This legislation uniformly lacks basic security, accuracy, and reliability measures, bestowing inordinate discretion on individuals, imposing no transparency requirements, or failing to mandate clear guidelines for how results are reviewed.

  • One Missouri bill would establish a process for appointing an “Election Integrity Committee” tasked with implementing a random auditing system to examine the election results of two precincts drawn at random — one in the largest five precincts by number of votes received and one in the smallest one hundred precincts by number of votes received. footnote5_sl8m79u 5 MO H.B. 1483.  There are no pre-written, comprehensive standards for conducting the audits.
  • One Washington bill would allow the legislature to authorize an independent forensic audit of a general election to be performed by a non-government entity. footnote6_1c6dwp3 6 WA H.B. 1884.  The bill provides no pre-written, comprehensive standards for conducting the audit.

Bills That Would Establish New Prosecutorial Authority Related to Elections

Five bills have been introduced in three states that would expand law enforcement’s power over election-related matters. Three of these bills would create new law enforcement entities to investigate and prosecute voters for fraud. Our research shows that widespread voter fraud is vanishingly rare. While prosecuting any election fraud and crimes that might occur is undoubtedly a necessary and important state function, the context for these bills raises risks of the spread of disinformation about elections as well as the politicization and abuse of the process, including racially discriminatory prosecutions of voters and people providing ballot assistance.

  • One Arizona bill would establish the Bureau of Elections within the governor’s office, a new agency empowered to enforce election law through investigations and by pursuing civil and criminal penalties. footnote7_cjcipxa 7 AZ S.B. 1027.
  • Another Arizona bill would expand the attorney general’s authority to investigate and prosecute alleged ballot collection (assistance with returning an absentee ballot on a voter’s behalf) in local and county elections and would allow any person to submit an anonymous complaint to the Election Integrity Unit of the Attorney General’s Office. footnote8_pblb0qs 8 AZ H.B. 2380.
  • Two New Jersey bills would require the attorney general to create a voting fraud task force in the Division of Criminal Justice, Specialized Crimes Bureau, to investigate and prosecute allegations of voting fraud. footnote9_fkm7m3y 9 NJ A.B. 1664, NJ S.B. 64.  The task force would comprise members of state, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies as determined by the attorney general.

In addition to these bills, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has announced plans to use executive action to establish law enforcement bureaus to investigate and prosecute voter fraud. Other states, including Texas, have similarly diverted state resources to such efforts in the past but have failed to garner any evidence of widespread fraud.

Bills That Impose New Criminal or Civil Penalties on Election Officials

Sixteen bills have been introduced in eight states that would impose new criminal or civil penalties on election officials for actions taken to expand voter access or for minor mistakes during their ordinary course of conduct. After the 2020 election year, when election officials went to great lengths to protect voters from unprecedented challenges, these measures seek to chill election official conduct. They also contribute to an unprecedented wave of election officials leaving the profession. These resignations could further undermine elections if professional election administrators are replaced by more partisan actors.

  • Four Arizona bills would allow election officials to be charged with felonies for unintended administrative mistakes. footnote10_0nrjmug 10 AZ H.B. 2237, AZ H.B. 2242, AZ H.B. 2491, AZ H.B. 2492.
  • One Florida bill would create a new right of action that voters can use to sue local election officials who don’t abide by election law. footnote11_dbzw21r 11 FL H.B. 1353.  The private right of action risks being used as a weapon against election officials for benign mistakes.  
  • A proposed constitutional amendment in New Hampshire would establish five elected inspectors general positions to investigate and prosecute elections fraud as well as fraud by elected officials, including bribery, corruption, waste, abuse, and perjury. footnote12_imz0ukl 12 NH CACR 30.  If they find probable cause, the inspectors general could petition the court to remove that official from office, investigate the institution, or prosecute such instances of fraud. Standards like “waste” are vague and subject to a wide range of interpretations. An inspector general could use this power to initiate proceedings against election officials in bad faith.
  • One Wisconsin bill would create a new felony criminal offense for a member of the state’s elections commission or its staff who fail to perform required voter list maintenance. footnote13_0m7wsop 13 WI A.B. 761.

Bills That Politicize the Elections Process in Potentially Subversive Ways

Nineteen bills in seven states have been introduced that would politicize elections administration in a manner that could open the door to election sabotage. These bills are part of a trend that emerged in state legislatures in 2021 and represent the most direct attack on fair election administration.

The most serious of these bills establish processes that could be used to remove professional election officials and replace them with more partisan actors. Another category of these bills rearrange authority over specific aspects of election administration between different actors in a way that could be politically manipulative. And a final category of these bills would establish commissions or oversight agencies with vague or overbroad “election integrity” functions.

Removing election officials. Two bills in two states would establish processes that could be used to remove professional election officials and replace them with more partisan actors. These bills create a threat to all aspects of election administration because they open the door to partisan actors manipulating the mechanics of election administration in a specific local jurisdiction. Two similar laws were enacted in 2021 in Arkansas and Georgia.

  • One New Hampshire bill would allow any voter to sue an election official and have them removed from office for failure to perform official election duties. footnote14_1wyt6ej 14 NH H.B. 1567.
  • One Virginia bill would create a process to allow the partisan State Board of Elections to unilaterally initiate removal proceedings for local election officials whom they deem to be “demonstrating less than satisfactory performance” for two years in a row. footnote15_rinm3th 15 VA S.B 459.  There are no clear standards for the review or what standard or factors constitute “less than satisfactory performance.”

Transferring authority. Ten bills in three states would transfer authority over specific aspects of election administration to different actors in ways that could open the door to political interference. Legislation reassigning authority over a specific aspect of elections, such as voter roll maintenance, is not necessarily a sign of potential election sabotage in and of itself. But when a transfer of authority or the removal of an election official opens the door to more partisan influence over election administration or vote counting, more scrutiny is needed.

  • An Arizona bill would allow local election officials to object to any settlement offer the secretary of state receives in election litigation, potentially complicating the office’s ability to resolve important lawsuits about voting access. footnote16_8opc0b8 16 AZ H.B. 2378.
  • Another Arizona bill would allow the legislature to appoint their own field personnel to review electronic voting systems on Election Day and recommend changes to voting procedures, duplicating existing statutorily mandated efforts by the secretary of state. footnote17_gslimx1 17 AZ H.B. 2379.
  • Three Virginia bills would expand the State Board of Elections and transfer the power of appointing the state’s commissioner of elections from the governor to the State Board of Elections. footnote18_z65gb85 18 VA S.B. 371, VA S.B. 610, VA H.B. 305.  Because of the bill’s varied effective dates, it would allow the current governor to lock in control of the State Board of Elections and commissioner of elections for several years past the end of his term.

Election oversight commissions and agencies. Six bills in four states would establish commissions or other oversight agencies tasked with ambiguous or suspect “election integrity” functions. While the purpose or titles of these committees may not appear problematic on their face, the proliferation of such “election integrity” entities are fueled by the false pretense of voter fraud and perpetuate election denialism. These commissions could be used to justify further efforts to suppress voting or prosecute voters or election officials.  

  • One Missouri bill would establish a joint committee of the general assembly to be known as the “Joint Committee on Elections.” footnote19_uo8tq2b 19 MO H.B. 1483.  This legislative committee would have the authority to appoint an “Election Integrity Committee” with the power to institute audits with weak procedural safeguards and “risk assessments” of local election official offices.
  • One South Carolina bill would create the “Restore Election Integrity Now” joint legislative committee, which would examine a range of issues, including election security, accuracy of the election process, and uniformity of the elections process across the state. footnote20_bodeuey 20 SC H.B. 4550.
  • One Tennessee bill would create a joint legislative ad hoc election integrity subcommittee to review the results of county election officials’ forensic audits of the 2020 general election. footnote21_ln9ypq4 21 TN H.B. 1714.

End Notes