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Voting Laws Roundup: March 2021

State lawmakers continue to introduce new restrictive voting provisions, and voter suppressive bills have begun to advance and become law.

Published: April 1, 2021
Voting rights activists protest Georgia voter suppression bills.
Megan Varner/Getty

Click here for the most recent Voting Laws Roundup.

Edit­or’s note: A recap of 2021’s voting laws as well as a look at voting legis­la­tion planned for 2022 can be found here.

Jump To: Restrict­ive Bills Enacted into Law | Restrict­ive Bills that Are Moving | Expans­ive Bills Enacted into Law | Expans­ive Bills that Are Moving | Alarm­ing Trends

In a back­lash to 2020’s historic voter turnout, and under the pretense of respond­ing to base­less and racist alleg­a­tions of voter fraud and elec­tion irreg­u­lar­it­ies, state lawmakers have intro­duced a start­ling number of bills to curb the vote. As of March 24, legis­lat­ors have intro­duced 361 bills with restrict­ive provi­sions in 47 states. foot­note1_7ii2em0 1 This total includes bills that are intro­duced, prefiled, or carried over. 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. That’s 108 more than the 253 restrict­ive bills tallied as of Febru­ary 19, 2021 — a 43 percent increase in little more than a month.

These meas­ures have begun to be enacted. Five restrict­ive bills have already been signed into law. foot­note2_ufeswl8 2 AR HB 1112, AR HB 1244, GA SB 202, IA SF 413, UT HB 12.  In addi­tion, at least 55 restrict­ive bills in 24 states are moving through legis­latures: 29 have passed at least one cham­ber, while another 26 have had some sort of commit­tee action (e.g., a hear­ing, an amend­ment, or a commit­tee vote).

Most restrict­ive bills take aim at absentee voting, while nearly a quarter seek stricter voter ID require­ments. State lawmakers also aim to make voter regis­tra­tion harder, expand voter roll purges or adopt flawed prac­tices that would risk improper purges, and cut back on early voting. The states that have seen the largest number of restrict­ive bills intro­duced are Texas (49 bills), Geor­gia (25 bills), and Arizona (23 bills). Bills are actively moving in the Texas and Arizona state­houses, and Geor­gia enacted an omni­bus voter suppres­sion bill last week.

Many bills seek to under­mine the power of local offi­cials. After county elec­tion offi­cials conduc­ted elec­tions during a pandemic and stood up to pres­sure to manip­u­late the results, state lawmakers are now seek­ing new crim­inal penal­ties to target these offi­cials.

Federal voting rights legis­la­tion now moving through Congress would over­ride many of these state-level restric­tions, and some state lawmakers are respond­ing. Some have intro­duced nonbind­ing resol­u­tions to oppose the For the People Act. Texas lawmakers have proposed setting up a paral­lel system with its own rules for state contests if the federal law is enacted.  

At the same time, 843 bills with expans­ive provi­sions have been intro­duced in a differ­ent set of 47 states (up from 704 bills as of Febru­ary 19, 2021). foot­note3_sgoufix 3 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, nine expans­ive bills have been signed into law. foot­note4_sift­tpx 4 MA HB 73, MT SB 15, NJ SB 3203, NY AB 2574, VA HB 1921, VA HB 1968, VA HB 2125, VA SB 1097, VA SB 1331.  In addi­tion, at least 112 bills with expans­ive provi­sions are moving in 31 states: 9 have passed both cham­bers and are await­ing signa­ture (includ­ing a bill to restore voting rights in Wash­ing­ton), 41 have passed one cham­ber, and 62 have had some sort of commit­tee action.

More than a third of the expans­ive bills address absentee voting, while more than a fifth seek to ease voter regis­tra­tion. State lawmakers are also focus­ing on expand­ing access to early voting and restor­ing voting rights to people with past convic­tions.

The 2021 legis­lat­ive sessions have begun in all but one state. Some state sessions (includ­ing Geor­gi­a’s) have already ended, and others will draw to a close in April.

You can find a resource list­ing restrict­ive and expans­ive state voting legis­la­tion by bill number here.

Restrict­ive Bills

Bills Enacted into Law

  • GA SB 202 (omni­bus): Gov. Brian Kemp signed SB 202 into law on March 25. The omni­bus elec­tions bill incor­por­ates elements of at least 16 other bills that Geor­gia legis­lat­ors had previ­ously intro­duced. foot­note5_tkcuq2t 5 GA SB 29, GA HB 62, GA SB 67, GA SB 68, GA SB 73, GA SB 175, GA SB 178, GA HB 227, GA SB 232, GA SB 241, GA HB 270, GA HB 494, GA HB 507, GA HB 512, GA HB 531, GA HB 537.  SB 202 limits absentee voting by requir­ing voters to provide a state iden­ti­fic­a­tion number or photo­copy of an identi­fy­ing docu­ment with their absentee ballot applic­a­tion, barring elec­tion offi­cials from affirm­at­ively send­ing out ballot applic­a­tions, giving voters less time to apply for an absentee ballot, and sharply restrict­ing the avail­ab­il­ity and hours of drop boxes. It also effect­ively reduces early voting in many counties by stand­ard­iz­ing early voting days and hours. The bill affirm­at­ively sanc­tions “mass chal­lenges” to voter eligib­il­ity, mean­ing that one person can come to a county clerk’s office and seek to have an unlim­ited number of voters removed from the voter rolls for being ineligible (though such efforts can viol­ate the National Voter Regis­tra­tion Act). In one partic­u­larly cruel provi­sion, SB 202 crim­in­al­izes the act of giving snacks or water to voters wait­ing in line at polling places. foot­note6_h61n­b5e 6 While this bill is over­whelm­ingly restrict­ive, one pro-voter provi­sion directs that the super­in­tend­ent for precincts with more than 2,000 voters that had wait times of more than an hour on the previ­ous general Elec­tion Day must either reduce the size of the precinct to no more than 2,000 voters (such a precinct split must happen no later than 60 days before the elec­tion), provide addi­tional voting equip­ment or poll work­ers, or both, before the next general elec­tion. In addi­tion, wait times must be meas­ured at least three times per day and recor­ded.
  • IA SF 413 (omni­bus): SF 413 is an omni­bus elec­tions bill that incor­por­ated elements of two other restrict­ive bills that Iowa legis­lat­ors had previ­ously proposed (IA SF 91, IA SF 115). The new legis­la­tion does a number of things to restrict voting access. It risks flawed voter purges by moving voters to inact­ive status every time they miss a federal elec­tion, requir­ing Iowa to use U.S. Postal Service change-of-address data for list main­ten­ance, and threat­en­ing county audit­ors with crim­inal prosec­u­tion for not abid­ing by voter roll purge prac­tices.

    SF 413 also restricts access to absentee voting by giving voters less time to apply for absentee ballots, barring local offi­cials from affirm­at­ively send­ing out absentee ballot applic­a­tions, limit­ing elec­tion offi­cials’ discre­tion to provide ballot drop boxes, and further restrict­ing who can assist an absentee voter in return­ing their ballot. It also restricts early voting by short­en­ing the early voting period by nine days and limit­ing elec­tion offi­cials’ discre­tion to offer addi­tional early voting loca­tions. And it rolls back Elec­tion Day voting by requir­ing polls to close an hour earlier than they previ­ously had and redu­cing the amount of paid time off employ­ers must give people to go vote. foot­note7_ffkb1n4 7 Although this bill is broadly restrict­ive, one pro-voter provi­sion requires county commis­sion­ers to provide notice to a voter if their absentee ballot envel­ope is miss­ing a signa­ture within 24 hours of receipt of the envel­ope. The notice must inform the voter that they may vote a replace­ment ballot or complete the envel­ope at the commis­sion­er’s office no later than the time polls close on Elec­tion Day.
  • AR HB 1112 and AR HB 1244 (voter ID): Arkan­sas enacted two bills that tightened the state’s voter ID require­ments. Arkansas’s old voter ID law allowed voters who arrived at their polling place without valid iden­ti­fic­a­tion to vote a provi­sional ballot if they signed a sworn state­ment attest­ing that they were registered to vote. HB 1112 elim­in­ates this option, and it requires voters who show up without iden­ti­fic­a­tion to return to the county clerk’s office by the Monday follow­ing the elec­tion with qual­i­fy­ing iden­ti­fic­a­tion in order to have their vote coun­ted. Arkan­sas law allows people with reli­gious objec­tions to being photo­graphed to obtain an ID card that does not have a photo. HB 1244 estab­lishes that non-photo IDs are no longer valid for voter iden­ti­fic­a­tion.
  • UT HB 12 (purges): Utah enacted a bill that will make faulty purges more likely. The bill requires county clerks to cross-refer­ence all death certi­fic­ates against voter regis­tra­tion rolls and remove the names of dead voters within 10 days. Because the law does not require any notice to the voters being removed, does not require audit­ing of the source data, and does not specify how many data points must be matched, it creates a risk that county clerks will remove the wrong names from their voter regis­tra­tion rolls.

Restrict­ive Bills that Are Moving

In addi­tion to the five restrict­ive bills that have been enacted, 55 restrict­ive bills in 24 states are moving in state legis­latures. foot­note8_2cyofmi 8 “Moving” means the bill is still live and has passed one or both cham­bers or has had some sort of commit­tee action — namely a commit­tee hear­ing (already held or sched­uled), an amend­ment, or a commit­tee vote.

More than half of the restrict­ive bills that are moving (28 bills, in 18 states foot­note9_etfxf5x 9 AR HB 1715, AZ HB 2792, AZ SB 1003, AZ SB 1485, AZ SB 1713, CA SB 597, CT HB 6325, FL SB 90, ID SB 1070, ID HB 290, IN SB 353, IN SB 398, KY HB 574, MO HB 738, MO HB 1065, MT HB 406, NE LB 590, ND HB 1253, NH HB 292, NH SB 54, NY SB 264, OK SB 714, SD HB 1126, TX HB 1725, TX HB 25, TX SB 7, TX HB 6, WV SB 565. ) include provi­sions that would restrict access to mail and absentee voting. These 28 bills would add voter ID require­ments to the mail ballot process, restrict assist­ance in return­ing ballots, bar elec­tion offi­cials from affirm­at­ively mail­ing out ballot applic­a­tions, and limit or elim­in­ate mail ballot drop boxes. The other moving bills would restrict voting in a vari­ety of ways (and many have multiple impacts). Eight of the moving restrict­ive bills would tighten voter ID require­ments. foot­note10_028glj1 10 MO HB 1065, MO HB 334, MO HB 738, MN SF 173, NH HB 292, NH HB 327, NH HB 429, WY HB 75.  Six of these bills would limit or ban Elec­tion Day regis­tra­tion, foot­note11_3tt11h9 11 AZ HB 2811, MT HB 176, NH HB 86, NH HB 523, NH HB 531, NH HB 535.  while two would make voter regis­tra­tion more cumber­some. foot­note12_5wkc1x5 12 WI SB 179, WI SB 180.  Five of these bills would modify or elim­in­ate protec­tions against polling place clos­ures and consol­id­a­tions (which force voters to travel farther to cast their ballots). foot­note13_ebgp­b41 13 KY HB 574, MI HB 4134, MT SB 196, SC SB 236, TX SB 7.  And seven of these bills would expand voter purge prac­tices in ways that risk improper removals. foot­note14_0rx869d 14 MI HB 4127, MI HB 4128, NH SB 31, TX SB 7, TX SB 155, TX SB 1114, TX SB 1340.

Arizona and New Hamp­shire have the greatest number of moving restrict­ive bills.

  • In Arizona, seven restrict­ive bills are advan­cing.
    • Four Arizona bills seek to make absentee voting more diffi­cult by prohib­it­ing elec­tion offi­cials from send­ing mail ballots to voters without an affirm­at­ive request, making it easier to remove voters from the perman­ent early voting list, requir­ing further iden­ti­fic­a­tion inform­a­tion on absentee ballots, and limit­ing the time that voters have to supply a signa­ture for their mail ballot they had forgot­ten to sign. foot­note15_may6lj9 15 AZ SB 1003, AZ SB 1485, AZ SB 1713, AZ HB 2792.
    • Another bill would prevent local elec­tion offi­cials from conduct­ing voter regis­tra­tion drives on nongov­ern­ment prop­erty (AZ SB 1358).
    • Two bills seek to prohibit policies that the state does not even have — auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion and Elec­tion Day regis­tra­tion — in a seem­ing effort to create a conflict with the federal For the People Act (AZ HB 2793, AZ HB 2811).
  • In New Hamp­shire, 10 restrict­ive bills are advan­cing.
    • Two bills target Elec­tion Day regis­tra­tion: NH HB 86 would elim­in­ate it alto­gether, while NH HB 523 would require that voters who register on Elec­tion Day with a qual­i­fied voter affi­davit or sworn state­ment have their photo­graph taken at the time of regis­tra­tion.
    • Two bills take aim at student voters. NH HB 429 would elim­in­ate the use of college and univer­sity ID cards as valid photo ID, while NH HB 362 would remove the abil­ity of students to use their educa­tional insti­tu­tion as their place of resid­ence for voting purposes.
    • Two bills would make voter regis­tra­tion more chal­len­ging by elim­in­at­ing the abil­ity of voters without valid iden­ti­fic­a­tion to estab­lish proof of resid­ency by qual­i­fied affi­davit (NH HB 531, NH HB 535).
    • One purge bill would direct the removal of voters from the rolls based on third-party inform­a­tion regard­ing change of resid­ence, a prac­tice the National Voter Regis­tra­tion Act does not permit (NH SB 31).
    • Three bills would require more iden­ti­fic­a­tion inform­a­tion at vari­ous points in the absentee voting process (NH HB 292, NH SB 54, NH HB 327).

Texas and Flor­ida are advan­cing bills with multiple restrict­ive provi­sions.

  • In Texas, the most compre­hens­ive, moving restrict­ive bill is TX SB 7, which has already passed out of commit­tee and would imple­ment a wide range of restric­tions on voting access. SB 7 seeks to limit mail voting by enact­ing compre­hens­ive restric­tions, includ­ing prohib­i­tions on state or local elec­tion offi­cials send­ing unso­li­cited mail ballot applic­a­tions to voters and on the use of any unstaffed drop boxes. It would limit early voting hours. It would increase the risk of long lines on Elec­tion Day by elim­in­at­ing the use of certain “mobile” and drive-through polling places and chan­ging the stat­utory stand­ards that guide alloc­a­tion of polling places and elec­tion equip­ment.

    SB 7 would also increase voter purges by threat­en­ing local elec­tion offi­cials with finan­cial penal­ties for not purging voters. It targets voters with disab­il­it­ies by limit­ing curb­side voting, placing more restric­tions on voter assist­ance, and requir­ing voters who want to vote by mail on the basis of a disab­il­ity to provide writ­ten docu­ment­a­tion of their disab­il­ity. And SB 7 would reduce protec­tions against voter intim­id­a­tion by rolling back common-sense checks on poll watch­ers (like the current prohib­i­tion on poll watch­ers using devices to record voters).
  • In Flor­ida, FL SB 90 targets the state’s absentee voting process. The bill would ban ballot drop boxes, limit assist­ance with ballot deliv­ery to imme­di­ate family members, and shorten the length of time that a person can stay on the absentee voter list.

In Michigan, lawmakers intro­duced eight restrict­ive bills on a single day (March 24). foot­note16_5k2p0u5 16 MI SB 273, MI SB 285, MI SB 286, MI SB 287, MI SB 303, MI SB 304, MI SB 308, MI SB 310.  While these bills haven’t yet advanced further through the state­house, they are concern­ing, as they would estab­lish a photo ID require­ment for both in-person and mail voting, make it harder to request a mail ballot by elim­in­at­ing online requests and barring elec­tion offi­cials from affirm­at­ively send­ing out applic­a­tions, and limit the use of mail ballot drop boxes. These restrict­ive bills were part of a pack­age of 39 bills filed by Michigan legis­lat­ors on March 24. Not all of the 39 bills would directly restrict access to voting, but many would still cause signi­fic­ant prob­lems for voters and elec­tion admin­is­trat­ors by weak­en­ing restric­tions against voter intim­id­a­tion and expand­ing the use of poll watch­ers, among other things.

Expans­ive Bills

Bills Enacted into Law

  • MA HB 73 (absentee voting and disab­il­ity access): This bill extends no-excuse early voting and absentee voting through June 30, 2021. It also requires elec­tion admin­is­trat­ors to grant disabled voters unable to vote a paper ballot reas­on­able vote-by-mail accom­mod­a­tions.
  • MT SB 15 (disab­il­ity access): This bill requires access­ible voting inter­faces to be made avail­able to voters with disab­il­it­ies during all-mail ballot elec­tions in all juris­dic­tions, unless there are fewer than 200 registered voters or if the elec­tion is for an irrig­a­tion district. It allows voters with disab­il­it­ies to desig­nate an agent to assist them in mark­ing their ballots.
  • NJ SB 3203 (early voting): This bill creates early in-person voting (with differ­ing early voting peri­ods depend­ing on the type of elec­tion). It requires that each county desig­nate a minimum number of early voting sites, depend­ing on the popu­la­tion size of the juris­dic­tion, and that the early voting sites open on the week­ends during the early voting period.
  • NY AB 2574 (auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion): This bill expands auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion agen­cies to include the State Univer­sity of New York (SUNY).
  • VA SB 1097 (absentee voting/witness signa­ture): Under this bill, a voter’s fail­ure to have a witness sign the absentee ballot envel­ope for any elec­tion held during a declared state of emer­gency related to a commu­nic­able disease of public health threat is not a mater­ial omis­sion and does not render the ballot void. The bill directs the Virginia Depart­ment of Elec­tions to convene a work group to consider and eval­u­ate altern­at­ives to the witness signa­ture require­ment for elec­tion offi­cials to use to verify that an absentee ballot was cast by the voter iden­ti­fied as having reques­ted and received such ballot.
  • VA SB 1331 (disab­il­ity access): This bill requires the Virginia Depart­ment of Elec­tions to make avail­able to all local­it­ies a tool to allow voters with a visual impair­ment or print disab­il­ity to elec­tron­ic­ally and access­ibly receive and mark absentee ballots using screen reader assist­ive tech­no­logy.
  • VA HB 1921 (disab­il­ity access and curb­side voting): This bill clari­fies that any voter with a perman­ent phys­ical disab­il­ity, tempor­ary phys­ical disab­il­ity, or injury, or who is 65 or older, is entitled to vote outside of the polling place. The bill further provides that during a declared state of emer­gency related to a commu­nic­able disease of public health threat, any voter is entitled to vote outside of the polling place. The bill requires that the area desig­nated for voting outside of the polling place be clearly marked and instruc­tions on how the voter is to notify a poll worker of their request to vote outside of the polling place be prom­in­ently displayed.
  • VA HB 1968 (early voting): This bill expands the loca­tions for in-person absentee voting by permit­ting the elect­oral board or general regis­trar of a county or city to provide such voting in more than one office. It further gives the elect­oral board or general regis­trar the author­ity to permit in-person absentee voting on Sundays.
  • VA HB 2125 (pre-regis­tra­tion): This bill permits pre-regis­tra­tion to vote for 16– and 17-year-olds, whose regis­tra­tion shall be auto­mat­ic­ally effect­ive when that person turns 18 or becomes eligible for advance regis­tra­tion as already permit­ted by Virginia law, whichever comes first.

Expans­ive Bills that Are Moving

As of March 24, 2021, at least 112 expans­ive bills in 31 states are moving through state legis­latures. foot­note17_s1is7q7 17 “Moving” means the bill is still live and has passed one or both cham­bers or has had some sort of commit­tee action — namely a commit­tee hear­ing (already held or sched­uled), an amend­ment, or a commit­tee vote.

Bills on the Precip­ice

  • Nine bills have passed both cham­bers and are await­ing signa­ture by a governor. foot­note18_hhy09zz 18 CA SB 29, IL HB 1871, IN HB 1479, KY HB 574, NM HB 231, VA HB 1890, VA SB 1245, VA SB 1395, WA HB 1078.  Among them is WA HB 1078, a bill to restore voting rights to Wash­ing­to­ni­ans with past convic­tions, and VA HB 1890, which would create a state voting rights act consist­ent with the congres­sional effort to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advance­ment Act. foot­note19_a4ic4oa 19 Three other states have voting rights acts pending: CT SB 820, MO HB 1256, NY SB 1046, and NY SB 5644. Connecti­c­ut’s voting rights act proposal received a commit­tee hear­ing on March 26.

State Lead­ers

  • New York leads the way with 12 active, expans­ive bills. They cover eligib­il­ity for absentee voting, absentee ballot drop boxes, college campus voting oppor­tun­it­ies, and restor­a­tion of voting rights to indi­vidu­als with past convic­tions, among other areas. foot­note20_8est46c 20 NY SB 253, NY SB 360, NY AB 454, NY SB 492, NY SB 517, NY SB 632, NY SB 830, NY SB 1028, NY SB 1310, NY SB 1632, NY AB 4128, NY AB 3005.
  • Some of the biggest action in expans­ive voting rights legis­la­tion comes from some of the smal­lest states: 11 expans­ive bills are moving in Mary­land, foot­note21_jr6b­jlm 21 MD HB 206, MD HB 247, MD HB 398, MD SB 525, MD SB 596, MD HB 656, MD HB 745, MD HB 1047, MD HB 1048, MD HB 222, MD SB 683.  10 are moving in Connecti­cut, foot­note22_f6jc21n 22 CT SB 5, CT HB 5318, CT HB 5651, CT HB 6205, CT HB 6464, CT HB 6578, CT HRJ 58, CT HRJ 59, CT SB 820, CT SJR 13.  and 7 are moving in Rhode Island. foot­note23_y9m01n5 23 RI HB 6004, RI SB 622, RI SB 621, RI SJR 569, RI SB 184, RI SB 247, RI SB 181.
  • New Jersey has five moving bills that would allow for absentee ballots with miss­ing or illegible post­marks to be accep­ted up until 48 hours after Elec­tion Day and provide absentee voters with notice and an oppor­tun­ity to cure ballot defects, among other things. foot­note24_en158hq 24 NJ AB 3591, NJ SB 2496, NJ AB 4259, NJ AB 2820, NJ AB 4720.

Absentee Voting

As of March 24, 2021, 54 moving bills in 26 states relate to absentee voting.

  • Bills in six states — Connecti­cut, Indi­ana, Massachu­setts, New Hamp­shire, New York, and Rhode Island — would extend or create no-excuse absentee voting. foot­note25_0g610x7 25 CT HB 6464, CT HJR 58, IN SB 117, MA SD 1345, NH HB 516, NH HB 61, NY SB 360, RI SB 621.  All but one, Indi­ana, offered no-excuse absentee voting as a tempor­ary meas­ure in response to the Covid-19 pandemic during the Novem­ber 2020 elec­tion.
  • Bills in 11 states would require that voters be noti­fied of and given an oppor­tun­ity to cure absentee ballot defects, in some cases even after Elec­tion Day. foot­note26_3i0fjhb 26 AZ SB 1003, AR SB 217, CA SB 503, HI SB 548, IN SB 398, KY HB 574, MD HB 1047, ND HB 1253, TX SB 1018, VA SB 1245, VT SB 15.
  • Bills in seven states would create or expand access to perman­ent absentee voting lists (voters on the lists would auto­mat­ic­ally receive an absentee ballot for every elec­tion without having to reapply). foot­note27_6tn67t2 27 AL SB 238, AR SB 217, CT SB 5, MD HB 1048, MD SB 683, MN HF 1160, NE LB 11, RI SB 247.

Voter Regis­tra­tion

As of March 24, 2021, 18 moving bills in 15 states relate to voter regis­tra­tion.

  • Bills in 15 states would expand voter regis­tra­tion oppor­tun­it­ies, includ­ing by offer­ing online voter regis­tra­tion, provid­ing same-day and Elec­tion Day regis­tra­tion, provid­ing for pre-regis­tra­tion of 16-year-olds, extend­ing voter regis­tra­tion dead­lines, and estab­lish­ing and expand­ing auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion. foot­note28_b2z6fgt 28 AR HB 1517, CA SB 504, CT SB 5, CT SJR 13, DE SB 5, HI SB 159, HI SB 548, MN HF 9, MN HF 607, MO HB 738, ND HB 1078, NE LB 577, NH SB 83, NY SB 517, RI SJR 569, SD SB 24, TN SB 1541, TX SB 1340.
  • Bills in five states would estab­lish auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion. foot­note29_akzzo28 29 DE SB 5, HI SB 159, MN HF 9, MN HF 607, NE LB 577, TN SB 1541.
  • Bills in three states would estab­lish or expand Elec­tion Day or same-day regis­tra­tion. foot­note30_2cmcnjr 30 CA SB 504, CT SB 5, MN HF 9.

Voting Rights Restor­a­tion

Ten states have seen move­ment on bills to restore voting rights to people with past convic­tions. foot­note31_yofi­ufm 31 AL SB 118, CT SB 5, CT HB 5318, CT HB 6578, IA HSB 143, IA HSB 231, MN HF 9, MN HF 876, NE LB 158, NE LR 10CA, NY SB 830, OR SB 571,TN HB 896, TN SB 647, VA SJR 272, WA HB 1078.

  • In Wash­ing­ton, HB 1078 — which would restore voting rights to more than 20,000 Wash­ing­to­ni­ans — now awaits Gov. Jay Inslee’s signa­ture.
  • New York bill, SB 830B, has passed the Senate and awaits a vote in the Assembly. The bill would codify in stat­ute what the governor has been doing through exec­ut­ive action, restor­ing voting rights to New York­ers with past convic­tions who are living in the community.
  • The Virginia legis­lature has taken the first step toward amend­ing the state’s consti­tu­tion to restore voting rights by passing a resol­u­tion (VA SJR 272) out of both cham­bers this year.
  • In Connecti­cut, CT HB 6578 would restore voting rights to every­one living in Connecti­c­ut’s communit­ies (and codify auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion).

Alarm­ing Trends

In addi­tion to the hundreds of restrict­ive bills intro­duced for the 2021 legis­lat­ive session, it’s worth call­ing atten­tion to two partic­u­larly alarm­ing trends.

In response to the momentum behind the federal For the People Act, six states have intro­duced nonbind­ing resol­u­tions oppos­ing the compre­hens­ive demo­cracy reform bill and urging Congress to reject it. foot­note32_14un­392 32 AZ HCR 2023, GA HR 98, KS HCR 5015, MI HCR 5, MI SR 25, NC HJR 330, OK SR 9.  Texas lawmakers have intro­duced two bills to bifurc­ate the voter regis­tra­tion process, such that the federal For the People Act would not apply to state voter regis­tra­tions (TX HB 4366, TX HB 4507). They would create a two-tiered voter system that would confuse voters and be diffi­cult to admin­is­ter. Arizona has advanced two bills that purport to prohibit policies (auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion and Elec­tion Day regis­tra­tion) that the For the People Act advances (AZ HB 2793, AZ HB 2811). The For the People Act applies only to federal elec­tions; it would determ­ine the rules for federal elec­tions and trump any conflict­ing state rules that apply to federal elec­tions, but it would not create policies for state elec­tions.

After local elec­tion offi­cials worked tire­lessly last year to conduct elec­tions during a pandemic and resisted substan­tial pres­sure to manip­u­late voting outcomes, state lawmakers are now taking aim at these local offi­cials. For example, Texas has intro­duced at least six bills that would penal­ize elec­tion offi­cials. foot­note33_sf69srg 33 TX HB 6, TX SB 7, TX SB 1514, TX SB 1607, TX SB 1608, TX SB 1731. A Wiscon­sin bill (WI SB 204) would prohibit elec­tion clerks from send­ing absentee ballot applic­a­tions and absentee ballots to voters who did not request them and create a felony offense for viol­a­tion. A Missouri bill (MO HB 1327) would threaten any local elec­tion offi­cial with loss of fund­ing if they refuse to purge voters on their rolls that the secret­ary of state has called on them to remove. And Iowa’s new law, IA SF 413, allows the state commis­sioner of elec­tions to impose a fine on county elec­tion offi­cials for any tech­nical infrac­tion, includ­ing fail­ing to purge voters.

End Notes