2014 Election Legislation Enacted by State Legislatures

2/12/2015
2014 Enacted Election Legislation

Election-related enactments for 2014 enactments looked a lot like 2015’s bills; there are just far fewer of them. In 2014, 187 bills were enacted in 39 states, fewer than in 2012 and on par with 2010.

Notably lacking this year was legislation on voter ID, the hottest topic of 2011 and 2012, and even in 2013. Also missing was legislation relating to long wait times at polling places.

While there were fewer big trends this year, voter registration and maintaining accurate voter lists were hot topics this year. A few key enactments:

  • Three states enacted online voter registration:  Minnesota, Massachusetts and Nebraska. 
  • Hawaii authorized same-day registration, and Utah authorized a pilot program to test same-day registration procedures.
  • Alabama extended its registration deadline from 10 days to 17 day before the election.
  • Two states, Minnesota and Louisiana, authorized inter-state data sharing and checks of the voter registration list.

Compared to previous years:

  • Enactments on the following topics increased: voter registration, interstate crosschecks of voter lists, facilitating voting for emergency workers and keeping voter records confidential.
  • Enactments on the following topics continued to be popular: absentee and vote-by-mail, early in-person voting, online voter registration, election-related crimes and youth.
  • Enactments on the following topics decreased: voter ID, election emergencies, schools as polling places, polling place operations and wait times, and felon voting rights.

Information on all 2014 election legislation can be found in NCSL’s 2011-current Database of Election Legislation. If you would like assistance in using this database please contact NCSL’s elections team or call us at 303-364-7700.  

2014 Key Election-Related Enactments:

Absentee and Vote-by-Mail: California (SB29) updated legislation to permit the counting of vote-by-mail ballots that were postmarked on or before Election Day and received within three days of the election. The state also permitted San Diego County to conduct a pilot all-mail ballot special election (AB1873). New Hampshire addresses signature matching requirements for absentee ballots (SB277), required the absentee voting website to say if a ballot has been challenged/rejected (SB278), and required ballot clerks to notify the moderator if an absentee voter tries to vote in person (SB280). Ohio SB205 prohibited absentee ballot applications from being sent unsolicited (unless an appropriation is made) and addressed procedures for absentee voters who don’t provide identification (SB216). Virginia specified that mail ballots can still be counted if a voter neglects to put a middle name or middle initial on the absentee ballot envelope (SB333) and that a voter may return a defaces or unused absentee ballot and still vote on Election Day (HB1197).

Crimes and Elections: Of note is Hawaii’s bill (HB 452) that made it a crime to make false statements about where and when to vote, and New Hampshire’s (HB 366) prohibition of taking a photo of a voted ballot and sharing it on social media. Indiana (SB385) made it a crime to make a false statement about a voter ID number on a polling place list and South Dakota (HB1074) will prohibit disruptive behaviors at polling places. And New Jersey (AB2851) will require counties to provide a link to the election law enforcement commission on their web sites.

Early In-Person Voting: Massachusetts (HB 3788) established early voting, to be implemented in 2016. Ohio reduced the timeframe for early voting from 35 to 29 days (SB238) and Wisconsin (SB324) limited the time that voters can request in-person absentee ballots to Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nebraska LB565 changed its procedures for voters who register and request an early ballot at the same time.

Electronic Ballot Transmission: In Utah (SB245) voters with disabilities joined military and overseas voters in being allowed to return ballots by electronic transmission. Virginia (SB11) required the establishment of a secure electronic ballot return mechanism for UOCAVA voters.

Emergency workers: Mississippi (HB624) passed legislation to allow emergency first responders to vote absentee, and California (S362) will now issue them a vote-by-mail ballot.

Online Voter Registration: Minnesota (HB 2096) officially authorized online registration in 2014, though the Secretary of State’s Office had already developed a system and gone live with it in 2013. Massachusetts (HB 3788) and Nebraska (LB 661) both passed bills establishing online voter registration.

Same-Day Registration: Hawaii (HB 2590) authorized same day registration and Utah (HB 156) authorized a pilot program to test same-day registration procedures. New Hampshire (HB466) will require a witness oath in addition to a signed affidavit for any voter without the required ID who registers and wishes to vote on the same day.

Schools as Polling Places: In Delaware (HB 205) schools will have teacher and staff in-service days on Primary Election Day and in Illinois (H3199) “school districts are encouraged to close the school or hold a teacher’s institute.”

Technology: Notable enactments include Minnesota’s authorization of electronic poll books (HB 2166) and an extension of the deadline to use Help America Vote Act funds (SB 1732) for purchasing voting equipment. Tennessee (SB1999) will now require voter registration systems to be certified. Arkansas (SB138) made an appropriation for county voting system grants to supplement previously allocated funds. California updated its definition of a voting machine (A2631) and will require counties that use machines to compare absentee ballot signatures to also have a person visually compare any ballots with discrepancies (AB2530). Indiana refined its definitions of “modifications” and “de minimis” changes to a certified voting system (HB1318). West Virginia (SB359) removed its requirement that votes counted by direct-recording electronic voting machines be hand-counted during the canvass. New York passed a couple of bills regarding procedures for the use of lever machines (AB1230 and AB9321).

Voter Information Confidentiality: Alabama (SB 280) will keep voter records of victims of domestic violence confidential, and Maryland (SB 818) will do the same to protect against human trafficking. Utah passed SB 36 allowing voters to request that their voter record is kept private if disclosure could put the voter at risk. Louisiana (HB383) prohibits the disclosure of voter information for anyone participating in the address confidentiality program, and also law enforcement officers engaged in hazardous activities.

Voter List Maintenance: Minnesota (HB 2265) and Louisiana (HB365) both joined the Electronic Registration Information System (ERIC), an interstate compact that allows states to compare their voter lists to identify potential duplicates or inaccuracies. Delaware (HB208) will require that a change of address at a DMV also serve as a change of voter registration information. Maryland (SB15) will require reports from the Social Security Administration to start the process of removing deceased voters from the statewide list.

Voter Registration: Alabama (SB 235) changed its registration deadline from 10 days to 17 days before the election. California (AB1311) and Michigan (HB4478) will both accept a mark or a signature stamp in place of a signature on registration forms. Colorado (SB161) will accept registration through voter registration agencies up until 8 days before an election (extended from 22 days before).

Youth: Louisiana (HB 501) permitted preregistration at 16 and required that an application for driver's license serves as preregistration unless the applicant opts out or fails to sign the form—a first. California (SB 113) lowered its preregistration age from 17 to 16; will require outreach to youth in detention facilities for the purpose of voter registration (SB1063); and promote voter registration at high schools (AB1446 and AB1817). Utah (HB 282) permitted 16- and 17-year-olds to serve as poll workers and Missouri (HB 1136) removed a prohibition on paying youth poll workers.

One-of-a-Kind Enactments:

Arkansas (SB438) required a municipality to reimburse the state and local boards of elections for costs incurred during municipal elections.

New Hampshire (SB274) prohibited anything other than 26 letters or a dash, apostrophe or comma for candidate names.

New York (SB3149) joined the National Popular Vote compact.

Rhode Island (SB2091) did away with straight-ticket voting.

Utah (SB54) will permit unaffiliated voters to vote in primary elections.

Additional Resources