By Dylan Lynch
Every new year brings new things. Here at NCSL, it brings a new legislative session and new legislative possibilities.
With 43 legislatures currently in session, the election bills are already beginning to pile up. Approximately 10 percent of all introduced election legislation will eventually be enacted.
Yet, it seems that New York decided to start the marathon that is a legislative session in a sprint.
Because of the 2018 election, the New York Senate flipped from Republican-controlled to Democrat-controlled. This flip, along with the still-Democratic assembly and governorship, lead to many speculating that New York could be ripe for election legislation.
After the 2019 session began, it took all of a few days to confirm those suspicions. A slew of election legislation flew through both chambers of the state legislature, and are now on their way to the governor. These reforms include a 10-day (including two weekends) early voting period, introducing same-day registration, preregistration, “portable” registration (i.e. if voters move jurisdictions within the state, their voter registration will follow them) and a consolidation of New York’s unique system of having separate state and federal primaries.
But swinging through the Midwest, it’s not only legislatures looking to take quick action on elections. In Indiana, Governor Eric Holcomb’s newly unveiled budget proposed $10 million for election security in the state. It is believed that a majority of the funds would go toward upgrading the existing touch screen voting devices with a new, voter-verifiable ballot component. However, those funds may only be able to upgrade roughly 10 percent of the machines in the state.
Meanwhile in Iowa, during her State of the State address, Governor Kim Reynolds called for the state to address its constitutional provisions regarding the restoration of voting rights of convicted felons. She noted that Iowa is still among the diminishing list of states who strip voting rights of felons forever, excluding restoration granted by the governor.
Reynolds’ call follows on the heels of Florida’s 2018 ballot measure that could restore the rights of close to 1.5 million Floridians. Reynold notes that the discussion should go to the people of Iowa to decide.
And not to exclude the western half of the country, bills have been introduced in California and Colorado relating to Election Day as a holiday.
Texas has a buffet of election legislation options (roughly 50 bills) already introduced in 2019. The topics range from online voter registration and automatic registration to uniform election dates and voter citizenship verification to straight ticket voting.
These actions are most likely the tip of the iceberg. As more and more legislatures begin to run at full speed, we can expect to see more and more election legislation up for debate.
To learn more on currently introduced legislation and 2019 predictions, read Katy Owens Hubler’s article (in collaboration with NCSL) in this week’s ElectionLine Weekly. Additionally, we will be regularly updating the NCSL election legislation database, providing legislation updates through The Canvass, and will continue to highlight election legislation in future blogs.
Dylan Lynch is a policy associate in NCSL's Elections Program.