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By Katy Owens Hubler

Last week the Wisconsin Senate passed a bill (SB 324) that would end early voting on evenings and weekends. SB 324 and its accompanying Assembly Bill 54 now go to Governor Scott Walker.

The legislation would standardize early voting hours at 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Currently, some clerks allow early voting on weekends and evenings and other don’t.   

The past two years have produced quite a bit of hullaballoo about expanding or restricting early voting hours, especially on weekends. How do the states that offer early voting compare on weekend voting?

  • Like Wisconsin, California, Kansas and Vermont allow their clerks to set their own hours, which could include Saturdays.
  • In Florida and Nevada, clerks are required to provide time on Saturdays for early voting, but may also choose to provide time on Sundays.
  • Maine, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming typically provide early voting during business hours, but nothing in statute explicitly bars the clerks from offering early voting hours on the weekends.
  • Eighteen states require jurisdictions to provide early voting hours on Saturdays and two states, Alaska and Illinois, require Sunday hours.

Allowing early voting on Sundays is also a particularly contentious issue because of “souls to polls” mobilization efforts whereby many voters go directly from church to the polls. In the last few years there has been legislation on Sunday early voting in several states: 

  • Florida scaled back early voting on weekends in 2011 only to reinstate it in 2013. Currently, local elections supervisors in Florida may choose to offer Sunday voting.
  • North Carolina ended Sunday voting with HB 589 in 2013.
  • Ohio’s Secretary of State Jon Husted recently announced that there would be no Sunday early voting hours in Ohio in 2014, citing the need for uniformity in his state.
  • A bill to expand early voting to Sundays was also recently defeated in the Louisiana Legislature.

Despite recent action, the general trend in the last decade has been for states to expand opportunities for pre-Election Day voting, including allowing voters increased opportunities to vote by absentee ballot without an excuse. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia now offer some form of early voting. Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia allow voters to request and cast absentee ballots without an excuse. Three states—Oregon, Washington and Colorado—now mail ballots to all eligible voters. These ballots can be returned by mail or in-person at designated locations prior to and on Election Day.

Katy Owens Hubler is an elections policy specialist at NCSL.

 

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.

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