III. Legislative Updates
Federal Legislation: More than 170 House Democrats introduced a new voting rights bill that would, among other things, allow people to register online or via the telephone to vote. "The Voter Empowerment Act removes unnecessary barriers between voters and the ballot box and utilizes modern technology to bring our elections into the 21st Century," said Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-New Orleans). "The right to vote is the single most essential element to maintaining our democracy. I will continue to be a strong voice in Congress as we fight to safeguard the right to vote for every American."
Arizona: A House committee voted 3-3 on House Bill 2305 and thus ended another attempt to make it a felony for anyone but a family member or candidate to collect early ballots. However, the measure was added to another, unrelated bill and approved 9-5 by the House Appropriations Committee.
Arkansas: The Arkansas Legislature agreed that it would not refer any proposed constitutional amendments for the 2016 ballot because they could not come to consensus on which to put before the voters including one that would have required a voter to show a photo ID.
California: Citing low turnout, Assemblyman Roger Hernandez has introduced AB 254 that would move all city elections to June or November of even years when counties are conducting presidential or statewide contests.
Hawaii: The Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced legislation that would move the Aloha State a vote-by-mail system. The proposal, which is mean to boost Hawaii’s notoriously low voter turnout would gradually phase in mailing absentee ballots to all voters.
Iowa: The Senate voted 26-20 that would allow residents to register to vote online through the secretary of state’s website as long as they have a state-issued driver’s license or ID card or a Social Security number.
Also in the Senate, the State Government subcommittee approved a bill that would move the absentee ballot deadline. The bill, which has already been approved by the House, would require that absentee ballots be received by a county auditor’s office before polls close.
Kansas: The Senate has approved legislation that would prohibit city and county officials from interfering with placement or number of campaign signs.
The Senate has also advanced legislation that would restrict candidate withdrawals from general election ballots to candidates who die, suffer a medical hardship or move to another state.
Another bill advanced by the Senate would stop the state from scheduling presidential primaries. Although the state has not held a primary since 1992, the bill repeals a law that sets the primary the first Tuesday in April every four years.
Nevada: A bill has been introduced into the Senate that would create a modified blanket primary system for partisan offices.
New Hampshire: The House of Representatives has asked the state’s Supreme Court to review a bill requiring people registering to vote to also register their cars and obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license. The House voted 190-148 to seek the advisory opinion.
New York: The New York City Council is drafting legislation that would allow legal noncitizens to vote in Gotham’s municipal elections. A previous version of the bill failed in 2013. If approved, New York would be come only the eighth — but certainly the largest — jurisdiction to allow noncitizens to vote.
Oregon: House Majority Leader Val Hoyle (D-Eugene) has introduced legislation that will open Oregon’s primaries and allow the more than half a million unaffiliated voters to cast a ballot in the primaries.
Utah: Gov. Gary Herbert has signed legislation into law that will make ballot selfies legal. While it would be a misdemeanor to photograph someone else’s ballot, it will now be perfectly legal to snap a selfie with your ballot. No word on if (preferably when) selfie sticks will be banned.
Vermont: The Senate is considering legislation that would allow residents to register and vote on the same day. The bill was amended to postpone its implementation until 2017 if approved. The Senate Government Operations Committee previously approved the bill 3-2.