By Dylan Lynch
As Election Day fast approaches, voting, election administration and the elections in general are certainly making headlines.
Indeed, Maine already re-approved ranked-choice voting, the first state to pass this type of legislation. Even though candidates and individual races are attracting most of the spotlight, 2018 will mark a big year for ballot measures, including voting and election administration issues.
Here is a quick roundup of five of the significant election ballot measures out there this year.
North Carolina and Arkansas: Voter Identification
In North Carolina, a 2018 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down, as unconstitutional, its photo ID voting requirements and the corresponding laws, HB 589 (2013) and HB 836 (2015), that amended the original statute.
Meanwhile, in Arkansas the original bill was struck down by the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2014 and another recent attempt by the legislature was again ruled unconstitutional by a county Circuit Court. The 2017 bill, however, has since been upheld by the Arkansas Supreme Court.
In both cases, opponents of this measure believe voter ID could restrict voter participation, while proponents believe voter ID will help secure elections and prevent voter fraud. Although each state has had different legal outcomes, the passage of both measures would cement photo voter ID in their constitutions, potentially laying the issues to rest for the time being.
North Dakota: Qualified Electors
North Dakota also has a measure that would address who makes an elector qualified. Measure 2 would change language in the North Dakota Constitution from “every citizen of the United States” to “only a citizen of the United States” is a qualified elector.
To many, it may just seem that proponents of Measure 2 are doubling down on the U.S. Constitution’s language. However, Gary Emineth, a Republican candidate for state senate and leading supporter of Measure 2, claims the current constitution is ambiguous and that this language would make it harder for local jurisdictions to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections. The issue of non-citizens being permitted to vote in local elections, like in Chicago and San Francisco, garnered attention earlier this year. The analysis of the measure, written by Secretary of State Al Jaeger, notes that, if passed, the measure “does not change the current election administrative procedures in state law.”
Florida: Felon Voting Rights Restoration
Heading back south, Florida has a whopping 12 ballot initiatives on its upcoming 2018 general election ballot. The one we are looking at is Amendment 4, which would allow voting rights to be automatically restored after the completion of a person’s felony prison sentence, which would include parole or probation. This measure would exclude those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense. It is estimated that approximately 1.6 million individuals would be affected by the passage of this measure.
Michigan: Lots of Election Administration
Lastly, we have Michigan. Michigan’s Proposal 18-3 is by far the most ambitious election administration ballot measure this year. This proposal would enshrine in the state constitution automatic voter registration, Election Day registration, no-excuse absentee voting, straight ticket voting, the requirement that ballots for military and overseas voters be sent out at least 45 days before the election and post-election audits.
Although Michigan already has some of these practices in statute, proponents of the measure note that making changes to these election policies would be harder if they were encased in the constitution. Not everyone is thrilled about this proposal, however. Republican Secretary of State candidate Mary Treder Lang notes she will be a “no” on the proposal. She believes the Election Day registration provision would put an undue burden on election officials.
The outcomes of these five measures, and the others not discussed, could have an impact on election administration in 2019. They may also prompt legislative actions in the next session. NCSL will be watching these issues and the legislative reactions closely.
Dylan Lynch is a policy associate with NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting Program.