Thursday, April 22, 2021

Electionline Weekly April-22-2021

Legislative Updates

Alabama: Under SB118, Voting Rights would be Restored to Thousands of former Prisoners without including their Remaining Court Fees and Criminal Fines as a Prerequisite. SB118 was First proposed by Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison (D-Birmingham) and now awaits action in the House.

Alaska: A Republican plan to change Alaska’s election system has been rewritten to remove several controversial parts and now includes a unique state-issued voter ID program to be put in place before the 2022 election. The bill also sets new standards for maintaining the state’s voter registry and for absentee ballots, which would be tracked from voter to ballot box. Voters would also be told immediately if their vote is rejected and be given a chance after Election Day to fix problems. In its current form, Sen. Mike Shower’s (R-Wasilla) bill would require the Alaska Division of Elections to issue “digital multi-factor authentication security identifiers to all registered voters.” Voters would not be required to use the new system, which Shower said could function like an ATM card with a PIN or the cellphone-app boarding pass system used by Alaska Airlines. The precise look of the program would be determined later.

Arizona: After shutting down debate and a walkout by Democrats that delayed proceedings for several hours, Republicans in the Arizona House of Representatives passed a bill to remove some people from the early voting list. Senate Bill 1485 is one of the most high-profile changes Republicans have proposed to Arizona’s voting laws during this legislative session. It comes after nearly half the GOP caucus in the Legislature backed throwing out the results of last year’s presidential election following Donald Trump’s defeat in the state. Following the 31-29 vote along party lines, the measure has one more vote in the Senate before it would land on Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk.

Arkansas: House Bill 1517 which would have established an online voter registration system in Arkansas failed to pass the state Senate. Under the bill, citizens in Arkansas, who have conducted business with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, would have had the ability to register to vote through an online system. Citizens would have to submit their application at least 30 days before an election in order to qualify to vote in said election. They would also have to provide a current driver’s license number or the last four digits of their social security number. The bill also requires Arkansas Secretary of State to go through voting registration data before each election and identify and purge from the rolls any listed voter who is deceased by comparing data received from the Social Security Administration.

The House approved Senate Bill 498 by Sen. Mark Johnson (R-Ferndale), requires that complaints made to county election boards about alleged election law violations be sent to the state Board of Election Commissioners. In response to a question from House Minority Leader, Tippi McCullough (D-Little Rock), the House sponsor, Rep. Carlton Wing (R-North Little Rock), said the bill would not take away the oversight of local prosecutors, because the state board would refer complaints to the appropriate authority. It was sent to Gov. Asa Hutchinson on a 79-9 vote.

Senate Bill 557, also sponsored by Johnson, would give county boards the power to supervise all election officials, and it states that county employees detailed as election officials must comply with the county board’s directives in election matters. The House sponsor, Rep. Keith Brooks (R-Ferndale), said the bill clarifies lines of responsibility for election officials. SB557 was sent to the governor’s desk on a 76-17 vote.

The House also sent Senate Bill 549 by Sen. Alan Clark (R-Lonsdale), to Hutchinson unanimously. That bill requires the county boards of elections to prepare a report on absentee and provisional ballots. It passed 92-0 in the chamber.

Senate Bill 643 and Senate Bill 644, both by Sen. Kim Hammer (R-Benton), also gained final legislative approval in the House on Tuesday. SB643 requires that absentee ballots be turned in by the end of the day on the Friday before an election and passed 65-25. SB644 sets up procedures for the Legislature to review issues with elections and prohibits anyone convicted of a misdemeanor related to violating election law from becoming an election official in future elections. It passed in a 73-17 vote.

California: State Sen. Josh Newman (D-Orange County) is pulling a bill that would have allowed politicians targeted by recall efforts to see who signed petitions to oust them. Newman said he’s pulling the bill due to pressure from supporters of a likely recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). Newman’s bill would not have applied to the anti-Newsom effort, but that movement’s supporters vehemently opposed it, saying it would violate citizen privacy and intimidate voters. Newman’s proposal would have allowed an elected official facing a recall to see the names of people who signed the petition so they can contact them to make sure they understood what they signed and see if they want to remove their names. People currently have 30 days to remove their names from a recall petition once state elections officials determine there are enough signatures.

Delaware: The House Administration Committee heard testimony on two elections-related bills. One bill would implement automatic voter registration at the DMV, a bill that’s already passed the Senate. The second bill would move the primary date from September to the same day as the presidential primary in July. The bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Stephanie Bolden (D-Wilmington) has introduced this bill three times before, and each time it’s failed to pass through the state senate, despite bipartisan support in the house. Bolden says every time the bill is passed, it receives more support from legislators, and she hopes this is the year it finally passes. Advocates testifying in support of the bill say moving the primary date is even more of a necessity if no-excuse absentee voting is becoming a mainstay, as it gives more time for the elections department to handle the mailing of ballots before the general election in November. Bolden adds turnout in the presidential primary is often higher than the statewide primary, and combining the two would boost turnout, especially among voters who may have difficulty getting to the polls in the first place. All bills passed through the committee, and now head to the House floor for debate.

Hawaii: An automatic voter registration measure that advocates say will make it easier than ever to register to vote in Hawaii cleared a key hurdle at the state Legislature this week. Senate Bill 159, which makes an application for voter registration part of all state identification card or driver’s license applications, was passed out of conference committee. It now awaits a final vote from the full House and Senate. SB 159 requires license and ID applicants to choose to be registered to vote or to make changes to voter registration information. Certain information may be shared but only among county agencies, the state Department of Transportation, election personnel and the online voter registration system.

Idaho: Idaho Gov. Brad Little has signed a bill that will make it tougher for voters to bring initiatives onto statewide ballots. Senate Bill 1110 was passed by the Senate in March and by the House earlier this month. The law will make it significantly harder for voters to get referendums or initiatives on ballots by requiring that 6% of registered voters in each of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts sign a petition before it will be accepted by the state. Currently, 6% of voters in only 18 districts are required to sign the petitions, which must also total 6% of voters statewide.

Louisiana: The Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee backed legislation by Chairwoman Sharon Hewitt (R-Slidell) that would make a host of changes to how Louisiana buys new voting machines, after a recent effort to procure machines fell apart amid uproar from some voters who believe the 2020 election was rife with fraud. Senate Bill 221 would set up several layers of oversight of Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s effort to buy new voting machines. Under the measure, Ardoin would be required to use input from lawmakers to create a set of standards for new machines. It would also create a new commission to evaluate voting systems. Ardoin raised some concerns that the bill limits his ability to make decisions on picking new voting machines, but he vowed to work with Senators on the legislation. Ardoin is a Republican but has clashed with lawmakers over the voting machine procurement. The committee also backed Senate Bill 220 by Sen. Heather Cloud, R-Turkey Creek, to require the Louisiana legislative auditor to conduct a review of Louisiana’s election processes.

Maine: State lawmakers are weighing a proposal that would ban Mainers from packing firearms in polling stations. LD 805 would authorize municipal officials to prohibit firearms in polling stations on Election Day. Under the proposal, firearms would be prohibited from being within 250 feet of a polling station, though law-enforcement officers would be exempt from the ban. Maine is one of a handful of “open carry” states where firearm owners can possess a gun in plain view, without any special permit. While federal law prohibits firearms in schools, where many polling stations are located, there’s no prohibition in city or town halls, community centers and other places where people cast ballots. The bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, calls the proposal a “common-sense measure that provides protection for everyone working at the polls.”

Massachusetts: Rep. Nick Boldyga has proposed legislation requiring would-be voters to show a driver’s license, an armed services ID card or certain student IDs before receiving a ballot. The proposal surfaced as one of 1,157 amendments to the House’s $47.6 billion budget for fiscal 2022. The legislation would give a town clerk the discretion to accept or challenge the would-be voter’s credentials if the person fails to produce a valid photo ID in a process that voting rights advocates described as overly complicated.

Michigan: House Republican lawmakers are attempting to slip substantial legislative changes into a budget bill that would eliminate the Secretary of State’s Office’s ability to mail absentee ballot applications and establish a timeline for reviewing petition initiatives. The proposal is included in a bill that outlines funding for the Department of State along with other agencies. “These provisions aren’t about the state budget. They are instead another attempt by state legislators — notably the most nakedly partisan branch of our state government — to overstep their authority in an effort to control our elections and undermine our democracy,” Benson spokesman Jake Rollow said. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government voted 5-3 on Tuesday to advance the massive budget proposals to the full appropriations committee. All three Democrats on the subcommittee opposed the move.

Montana: Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed two elections-related bills into law this week. House Bill 176, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Greef (R-Florence), eliminates Election Day voter-registration in Montana after 15 years. The new law ends voter registration at noon on the Monday before an election. MTN News reported last month that anywhere from 1 percent to 2.3 percent of Montana votes cast in recent presidential general elections have been cast by people who register on Election Day. Senate Bill 169, sponsored by Sen. Mike Cuffe (R-Eureka), more tightly defines the type of ID required to vote in Montana or register to vote. Cuffe said voter ID “is a key component in protecting the integrity of Montana elections.” Any voter who does not have a government-issued photo ID or a state concealed carry permit must produce two forms of identification in order to cast a ballot at the polls.

South Carolina: Under House Bill 3822, no excuse would be required to vote absentee, the witness signature requirement would be removed and it also ensures people that have served time will be notified that they can vote. House Bill 3372, aims expand in-person absentee voting by giving a two week ‘no excuse’ period for everyone to vote early, but it limits absentee voting by mail.

Texas: By an 8-1 vote, the House Committee On Elections has approved Rep. James White’s (R-Woodville) bill which would require electronic voting machines to produce a traceable paper ballot. If passed, starting September 1, 2021, electronic voting machines that do not produce a verifiable paper record cannot be purchased. Beginning September 1, 2023, electronic voting machines cannot be used in an election, unless it produces a paper record. The bill will now go before the Committee on Calendars for possible placement on the House floor.

The Senate Committee on State Affairs has unanimously passed a bill which would require the secretary of state to publish voting history records. SB 1925, authored by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) was approved in a 6-0 vote. According to documents filed by Hughes, the record would indicate the voter and the process by which the voter voted: election day, early voting by appearance or voted early by mail. The record would not indicate the contents of a ballot. The record would appear on the secretary of state website. The committee opted to have the bill placed on the Senate’s local and uncontested calendar.

The House Committee on Elections approved HB 1314 by a 5-3 vote. The bill requires all components of voting equipment to be American made. Rep. Cole Hefner (R-Mount Pleasant) calls HB 1314 simple and straight-forward. The bill not only requires all parts to be American-made but also the companies manufacturing the equipment, and their parent companies must be located and headquartered in the United States. Also, data and equipment storage must remain in the United States. The bill will now go to the Committee on Calendars for possible placement on the House floor.

Texas House Bill 4322 aims to change the state Election Code so each polling place has to be inside a building and cannot be in tent, temporary structure, movable structure, parking garage or parking lot facilities primarily designed for motor vehicles. Republicans in the Texas House Elections Committee advanced it with a 5-4 vote along party lines Wednesday.

The House passed a bill that would allow election judges to carry handguns at most polling locations on Election Day and during early voting. House Bill 530, by Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, aims to codify an attorney general’s opinion from three years ago that said election judges have the same power as district judges to enforce order and keep the peace and therefore are exempt from prohibitions against carrying guns at polling locations. That reasoning stemmed from a 1913 Texas Court of Criminal Appeals case, and the attorney general opinion was non-binding. The bill passed on a vote of 94-51 and now moves to the Senate.

Legal Updates

Federal Lawsuit: The MyPillow company, whose CEO Michael Lindell has helped former President Trump peddle baseless claims of widespread election fraud, is countersuing Dominion Voting Systems over Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against MyPillow. In a federal lawsuit filed in Minnesota seeking more than $1.6 billion in damages, MyPillow accused Dominion of “debasing the legal system” with its efforts to strike back at the right-wing campaign to discredit its voting systems. “Dominion’s purpose is to silence debate; to eliminate any challenge to the 2020 presidential election; and to cancel and destroy anyone who speaks out against Dominion’s work on behalf of the government in administering the election,” the lawsuit reads. Dominion filed a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Lindell and his company in February over his claims that Dominion assisted in engineering widespread election fraud that delivered the White House to President Biden in November. Dominion, through a lawyer, on Monday dismissed the retaliatory lawsuit. “This is a meritless retaliatory lawsuit, filed by MyPillow to try to distract from the harm it caused to Dominion,” Stephen Shackelford, an attorney for the voting systems company, said in an emailed statement.

California: A three-judge panel at the Third Appellate District heard arguments this week in a case of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to mail ballots to all registered voters for the 2020 election. Newsom declared a state of emergency in March 2020, just after the primary election. Newsom issued an executive order to send vote-by-mail ballots to all registered voters for the November general elections. The governor also required local election officials to use a specific barcode to track ballots in the mail and changed hours of operation at polling places in certain counties leading up to the Nov. 3 general election. He issued his three orders under the California Emergency Services Act (CESA), which gives the governor complete authority over state government agencies and the right to police power under state law and the Constitution. In November 2020, Sutter County Superior Court Judge Sarah ruled the CESA “does not authorize or empower the governor of the state of California to amend statutory law or make new statutory law, which is exclusively a legislative function not delegated to the governor under the CESA.” The state appealed the ruling and now it’s before the appellate court. Assemblymen James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) argued before the panel that Newsom usurped the Legislature’s authority. Deputy Attorney General John Killeen argued Newsom could not achieve some sort of broad, long term change under his emergency powers since “there are plenty of safeguards in CESA, it’s not even close to being unconstitutional.”

Montana: A day after Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed two laws that would change how and when voters register, attorneys for the Montana Democratic Party have sued to stop them, saying they unfairly disenfranchise young voters, the elderly, Native Americans and the disabled even though not a single case of voter fraud has been documented in the past 20 years. In the lawsuit filed by Mike Meloy of Helena and Matthew Gordon of Seattle, they ask the court to strike down House Bill 176, which eliminated Election Day – or same-day – voter registration. They also asked the court to rule that Senate Bill 169, which established stricter rules for acceptable identification, as unconstitutional. The lawsuit, filed in Yellowstone County, has been assigned to Judge Mary Jane Knisely. The Democrats have named Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen as the defendant in her role as overseeing statewide elections and voter registration. The party’s complaint alleges that the two bills violate provisions in the state constitution requiring equal protection under the law, arguing that young voters would be disproportionately impacted. Democrats also complained that the laws would hamper their get-out-the-vote efforts, which hinge in part on convincing people to register and vote on election day, and would force them to spend additional resources on voter education.

Pennsylvania: The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a case against Pennsylvania’s handling of mail-in ballots, dispensing with yet another legal challenge over the 2020 election. The justices released an order Monday instructing a lower court to dismiss the case as moot. The order did not include an opinion or indicate which justices supported or opposed the move. A Republican congressional candidate and four individual voters filed a federal lawsuit against Pennsylvania elections officials in October after a state court ruled that mail-in ballots could be counted if they were received up to three days after Election Day, which legislators had established as the deadline. Democrats had sued in state court to have the deadline extended due to the expected increase in mail ballots because of the pandemic. The Supreme Court’s order comes nearly two months after it rejected a handful of cases brought by former President Trump and his allies that sought to challenge the election results in battleground states that helped carry President Biden to victory.

Washington County Judge Michael Lucas has blocked an attempt by three Donegal Township supervisors to halt the municipality’s primary election next month. Lucas ruled late Friday afternoon to deny the preliminary injunction request by Supervisors Richard Martin, Richard Fidler and Tammi M. Iams after they claimed they could be removed from office before their terms expire when the board is downsized from five members to three after this year’s election. “The proper and lawful exercise of a fundamental right to vote may not be sacrificed to maintain the term of any officeholder,” Lucas wrote in his opinion. “An elected office is a public trust, not the private domain of the officeholder.” The three supervisors filed the lawsuit April 9 claiming they could be harmed by the May 18 primary because each has multiple years remaining on their terms, meaning they could be removed early if they lose their reelection bids later this year. The trio sued the Washington County Board of Elections asking for it to halt the election or invalidate the results. Also named in the lawsuit were fellow Supervisors Edward Shingle Jr. and Kathleen Croft.

Virginia: Election officials have agreed to permanently provide an absentee ballot option for blind voters. The agreement comes after several voters with disabilities, the American Council of the Blind of Virginia, and the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia filed a lawsuit in federal court last year against the state for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the Virginia Disabilities Act. In August, the state agreed to provide an absentee ballot option that is accessible and can be marked electronically so voters with disabilities could safely vote in the November 2020 general election. The plaintiffs and their lawyers said this week that the state has agreed to permanently provide the remote electronic absentee ballot option for voters with disabilities, beginning with the upcoming primary election in June. Under a consent decree, the state will also appoint an ombudsman to assist voters to use the accessible electronic ballot.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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