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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_bf5stmw 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_r6ccjy5 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_ydhatzj 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_xapc­sad 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_gdxcuto 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_60xxi7m 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_z6zi­u26 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_qjlnb4t 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_znk7514 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_1drb­fkp 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_7yom­ra1 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_i5o770s 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_kwcw3j2 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_adzr7hq 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_c54g­f8h 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_rwtcdif 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_2mbsy9j 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_d9njqe6 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_dotx­clz 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_gx4ygsf 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_niekr4r 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_hyz45o3 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_84zk­cof 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_zalyx9p 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_qtizj06 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_bex4lec 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_2fidxlz 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_01s20ae 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_2nak01b 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_brsgafz 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_ooxhxcg 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_u5eg37z 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_cjc1ml8 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_26lp­fwm 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_9y2kqu7 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_0it66fu 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_341i­hdy 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_xkn2tlp 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_omke07y 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_nimku6n 9 MO H.B. 1646.
  • A Flor­ida bill would elim­in­ate the require­ment to pay fees and fines before being eligible for rights restor­a­tion. foot­note10_1ur0dqu 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_afi8ygq 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_st9k2pf 12 FL S.B. 368.
  • Six states are consid­er­ing bills that would allow eligible indi­vidu­als to register to vote on Elec­tion Day. foot­note13_y7hpxue 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_slb00b9 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_7hqqo9j 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_kc4c1a0 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_ak48072 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_zr9jqmr 18 NH H.B. 1594.  Two Rhode Island bills would extend the dead­line for voters with certain disab­il­it­ies to request a mail ballot. foot­note19_335px0e 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_9319l4l 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_lpn1pq1 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_ynowehd 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_gl29z7a 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_cj3a­j8n 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_f64glgu 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_g78mu4q 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_9laq9m5 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_2srmopq 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_my737fy 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_1rka42p 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_qepdyed 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_2lbu2rt 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_l3ulsxj 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_3f8s8lx 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_ry1ilqs 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_0jx4r8a 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_sjk5dfw 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_5tq4pq6 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_73w6f6l 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_9oyaa0g 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_9wywzuq 21 TN H.B. 1714.

End Notes