IV. Legislative Updates
Arizona: Rep. J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) is promoting a resolution that would create a lieutenant governor’s position in Arizona. Currently, if something happens and the governor steps down, the seat is filled by the secretary of state. Former secretaries of state Ken Bennett and Jan Brewer support Mesnard’s proposal. "Performing the duties of secretary of state alone would not prepare someone to take on the responsibilities of the levels of the governor," Bennett told The Associated Press.
Arkansas: By a vote of 90-1 the House has approved legislation that requires write-in candidates to notify state and local elections officials 90 days in advance if they plan to run for office. County elections officials are not required to include lines for write-ins unless a write-in candidate has filed with the county.
California: Assemblyman Luis A. Alejo (D-Salinas) has introduced a bill that will “allow challenges to a district-based election that is being imposed or applied in a manner that impairs the ability of a protected class of voters to elect candidates of their choice.” Essentially, if approved, the bill would expand the reach of California’s Voting Rights Act.
Colorado: The House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee killed a bill that would have allowed voters to show others their completed ballot without penalty.
Connecticut: Hartford’s legislative delegation is expected to introduce legislation allowing the city council to appoint one, nonpartisan leader for the registrar of voters office, whether or not the city is able to remove the existing, partisan registrars.
Illinois: Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) is co-sponsoring legislation that would eliminate the East St. Louis elections board and pass the elections duties on to the St. Clair County clerk’s office. While the board has been beleaguered for a variety of issues, Kay cites finances as the reason for want to eliminate it. He anticipates consolidating the board would save the city more than $400,000 per year.
Maine: Gov. Paul LePage’s office is drafting legislation that would eliminate the state’s secretary of state position and replace it with a lieutenant governor. The proposed changes would require an amendment to Maine’s Constitution. Under the legislation, the governor and lieutenant governor would run on a slate.
Maryland: It’s official! Hyattsville has become only the second jurisdiction in the nation to allow 16-year-olds to cast a ballot in local elections. The city council voted unanimously to approve the charter amendment.
Michigan: Citing the desire to boost youth participation in elections, Sen. Steve Bieda has introduced legislation that will allow 16- and 17-year olds to pre-register to vote.
Minnesota: Under a bill sponsored by Sen. Dave Senjem (R-Rochester) and approved this week by a Senate committee, elections judges serving in the same precinct would be able to find out the party affiliation of their fellow election judges.
Missouri: It’s like déjà vu all over again. Once again this year, the Mississippi General Assembly is tackling the topic of voter ID. State Rep. Tony Dugger (R-Hartville) has introduced legislation that would require voters to show a current U.S. or Missouri government issued ID.
Montana: Secretary of State Linda McCulloch has asked Rep. Geraldine Custer (R-Forsyth) to pull a bill that would have moved Montana to all vote-by-mail. “In polling Democrats and Republicans, I couldn’t see that there was enough support for the bill,” McCulloch told the Montana Standard. “I’m a real believer that you shouldn’t waste a Legislature’s time and money if a bill is not going anywhere.”
While vote-by-mail met an early death in this year’s session, McCulloch and local elections officials are putting their efforts behind legislation to allow online voter registration.
Nebraska: Late last week the Legislature’s Government, Military and Veteran Affairs Committee conducted a heated debate on LB111, legislation that would require voters to show government-issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Witnesses included members of the NAACP as well as Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
New Hampshire: A proposal has been introduced that would codify a list of factors for what constitutes a domicile for voting purposes. The list would include what address a person uses on a tax return, or where they keep their most valuable possessions.
New Jersey: Assemblyman Timothy Eustace (D-Maywood) has introduced legislation that would allow voters to vote-by-mail in primary elections. Eustace’s legislation would allow any county to conduct primary elections by mail if approved by the county’s authorities.
New Mexico: Senate Minority Whip William Payne has introduced a proposal that calls for the secretary of state’s office to study the feasibility of bringing biometrics to the voter ID mix. Under the proposal, the secretary’s office would be required to study whether finger prints or retinal scans could be used as proof of ID in order to cast a ballot.
North Dakota: Sen. Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks) has introduced legislation that would require student IDs issued by state colleges and universities to include the students’ date of birth and address so that the IDs may then be used in order to cast a ballot.
Puerto Rico: Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla has announced plans to introduce legislation that would grant voting rights to undocumented immigrants. According to published reports there are anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 undocumented immigrants who call the U.S. territory home.
Texas: Bills filed in both the House and Senate would allow students to use a university-issued ID as a valid form of ID to cast a ballot.
Rep. Tony Alvarado (Houston) has filed HB 953 that would create an online voter registration system in the Lone Star State. Under the legislation, those wishing to register online to vote would need to have a Texas driver’s license.
Virginia: A panel in the House of Delegates voted 13-9 to move Virginia’s primary from the second week in June to the third week. Del. Hyland F. “Buddy” Fowler, Jr. said he introduced the legislation because when he visited school-based polling places in 2014, he found that the election was interfering with school activities.
In a largely party-line vote, the Senate has killed a bill that would have allowed voter registration by party.
The Senate Privileges and Elections committee held hearings on several elections-related bills this week including one that would allow those 65 and older to be permanent absente votes and another that would create a pilot program for vote centers.
Washington: The state Voting Rights Act has returned to the legislature this session. Under the bill it would make it easier to force localities to switch to geographic district-based elections.
West Virginia: Sens. Charles Trump (R-Morgan) and Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson) have introduced SB 340 that would require West Virginians to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot.
Add The Mountain State to the list of states attempting to do away with straight-ticket voting this legislative session.
Wyoming: The House has approved legislation on a 57-3 vote that will streamline and speed up the process for ex-felons to regain their voting rights. Under the legislation, instead of petitioning the state’s parole board for restoration, rights would be automatically restored for some nonviolent offenders. The bill now moves to the Senate.