By Wendy Underhill
When it came to new election laws, 2013 was both remarkable and not-so-remarkable.
Remarkable: Voter ID was no longer the singular big story, as it had been in 2011 and 2012. Last year, new laws regarding online voter registration were equally significant. And, major election overhauls in Colorado, Florida and North Carolina were the true headline-grabbers.
Unremarkable: the number of bills introduced and enacted (2384 bills, 295 enactments) were right in line with other recent odd-numbered years.
Regarding voter ID requirements, eight states passed 11 bills, mostly in line with the years-long trend toward stricter requirements. For example, Arkansas, North Carolina and Virginia joined the ranks of the “strict photo ID” states, Arkansas doing so by overriding a veto (see NCSL’s Voter ID Requirements webpage).
As for online voter registration, it was introduced in 17 states and enacted in Illinois, Virginia and West Virginia. New Mexico passed legislation that moves in that direction as well, permitting changes to registration—but not new registrations—to be done online. (Online registration went live in Minnesota without enabling legislation, engendering a lawsuit. Minnesota’s legislature will take up online registration and online applications for absentee ballots later this month.) See NCSL’s Online (Electronic) Voter Registration page or the November 2013 webinar, Online Voter Registration: The Bipartisan Trend in Elections.
Other key areas were:
- Election crimes, with new laws defining what constitutes a crime, increasing penalties and permitting more agencies to prosecute it.
- Voting for military and overseas voters, including an Arkansas law that guarantees that a fallen soldier’s last vote will be counted.
- Same day registration (created in Colorado, eliminated in North Carolina and put on the 2014 ballot in Montana to eliminate it).
- Absentee and early voting (the number of available days was restored in Florida to the standard in 2010, and Minnesota created no-excuse absentee voting for the first time).
- Cautious steps toward the electronic transmission of ballots, while keeping security in mind.
For more on 2013 elections-related enactments, see NCSL’s 2013 Election Legislation Enacted by State Legislatures. And, watch NCSL’s blog for details on a quick webinar on these enactments, scheduled for 10 a.m. ET, Friday, Jan. 31.
Wendy Underhill covers election policy for NCSL.