LAB March 29 2011

Legislative Action Bulletin:  March 29, 2011

View the newsletter in pdf format.

Voter Identification

Voter ID continues to be the election issue receiving the most attention both in legislatures and in the media this year. Legislation to require photos has been introduced in 12 of the 19 states that currently require ID, but not a photo ID, to vote. Twenty of the 23 states with no current voter ID requirement also have active legislation on the topic.

Bills to add a photo to existing ID requirements have passed their chamber of origin in Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Montana, Ohio and Tennessee. Bills in South Carolina and Texas have passed both chambers but include amendments that need to be agreed to by the other chamber before they can go to the governor. Bills in Colorado and Virginia failed to pass.

A bill implementing a brand-new voter ID requirement is on its way to a conference committee in Kansas, where the House refused to concur with amendments made in the Senate. A voter ID bill has passed the chamber of origin in Iowa, while bills in Mississippi, New Mexico and West Virginia have failed. All remaining voter ID proposals are pending in their chamber of origin.

National Popular Vote

Bills to enter states in the National Popular Vote (NPV) compact have been introduced in 29 states this year. The idea has gained the most steam in Vermont, where a bill has passed the Senate. A Washington bill would withdraw that state from the compact, which it joined in 2009. The New Mexico House has asked the Secretary of State to study the idea over the interim.

Upon entering the compact, a state pledges that all of its electoral votes will be given to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide. The compact takes effect only when states with electoral votes totaling 270 have enacted National Popular Vote legislation. To date, six states, with a combined 73 electoral votes, have entered the compact. Passage of the Vermont bill this year would bring the total to 76. Learn more about the National Popular Vote movement here.

Straight Ticket Voting

Seven of the 16 states that offer straight ticket voting—a voting method that allows a vote to make a single choice that marks all of the candidates of one party down the ballot—are considering doing away with the practice this year. And in Missouri, they are considering adopting it.

Military and Overseas Voting Bills

According to NCSL’s most recent count, 29 states have introduced bills this year to implement at least part of the federal Military Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE). In the last LAB, we reported that the New York and Virginia legislatures had sent MOVE-compliance bills to the governor. The New York bill has been signed, and the Virginia governor has yet to act. This brings the total number of MOVE bills enacted this year to four.

The North Dakota legislature has sent MOVE bill SB 2120 to the governor. Bills have passed one chamber in Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii (HB 461, HB 716 and SB 1080), Kansas, Maryland, Montana, Oklahoma (HB 1615, SB 115 and SB 602), South Carolina and Washington.

Primary Elections

2011 has brought a flood of legislation dealing with primary elections. At least 19 states are considering changing their primary, whether by opening it to unaffiliated voters (pending in six states) or closing it to allow only the voters registered with the party to participate in its primary (pending in 13 states).

In Idaho, a bill was introduced yesterday allowing parties to close their primaries. SB 1198 would require political parties to notify the Secretary of State six months in advance of the primary whether the party planned to allow participation by voters who are not registered members of the party.

Presidential primary dates also are under consideration in 13 states this year. The Georgia House has approved a bill that would move the presidential primary from early February to no later than the second Tuesday in June, as chosen by the Secretary of State. Both chambers in Oklahoma have approved separate bills changing the presidential primary date from February to March (HB 1614 and SB 808). A similar Virginia bill is on the governor’s desk. And the Kansas Senate has approved a bill canceling the 2012 presidential primary.

Session News

Legislatures in all 50 states will hold regular sessions this year. So far, 49 have convened and six have adjourned (Kentucky, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming). The Louisiana Legislature will convene on April 25.

By the end of May, more than half of state legislatures will have concluded their 2011 regular sessions. Upcoming adjournments include:

  • Early April: Arkansas, Idaho, Maryland and Mississippi
  • April 17: Alaska
  • Mid April: Georgia
  • April 24: Washington
  • Late April: Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Montana and North Dakota

View a complete 2011 session calendar on NCSL’s website.

2011 By the Numbers


States currently in session

States adjourned for the year


States with no regular session this year


Election bills introduced




Pending in chamber of origin


Pending in second chamber


Pending conference/concurrence


Awaiting gubernatorial action


Carried over to 2012 session


Failed to pass



For More Information

Contact NCSL's elections staff at 303-364-7700.


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