The amount of election administration legislation from 2017 tracked similarly to years since 2011 both in the total number of bills introduced (2,373) and in the total number enacted (267). Every state and the District of Columbia introduced a bill, and of those, 42 enacted a piece of legislation.
To get the exact numbers from previous years, please see our Elections Legislation Database.
Security concerns dominated, including such issues as technology, election auditing and maintenance of voter registration lists. In fact, list maintenance had the most total bills introduced in the most states, with 119 bills in 38 states. Bills dealing with elections equipment and technology had 100 bills introduced across 30 states, and legislation on voted ballot returns had 84 bills introduced in 28 states. Voter ID had 113 total bills in 37 states. Felon voting rights had 67 bills in 28 states. Mail voting saw 56 bills in 21 states.
For additional information or questions, feel free to contact NCSL’s elections team.
2017 Election Administration-Related Enactments for Selected Topics
Elections Funding, Equipment and Technology
Ten states enacted 19 bills on elections technology and equipment. Elections funding from the states was one of the biggest trends from 2017. Some notable enacted legislation included:
- Arkansas passed a bill on deadlines to conduct logic and accuracy testing.
- New Mexico now requires the secretary of state to create a system for visually impaired voters to vote remotely.
- Michigan’s legislature appropriated $10 million as part of an $40 million package that also includes leftover funds from the 2002 Help American Vote Act and county dollars.
- Nevada appropriated $8 million for voting technology replacement.
- Minnesota dedicated $7 million as part of a grant program to fund 75 percent of the cost of e-poll books and 50 percent for voting equipment.
- Utah addressed the certification and purchase of new voting equipment as well as creating the Voting Equipment Grant Program. It appropriated $275,000. The amount of funding for each county will be based on its number of active voters.
Voter Registration Lists
No states adopted online voter registration, and Arizona was the only state to join the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). It did so through non-legislative means. In terms of list maintenance, 119 bills were introduced (the most of any topic) with 21 enactments in 16 states. For the use, distribution and sale of lists, 46 bills were introduced, with six enactments in five states. Notable legislation included:
- New Hampshire enacted a bill addressing interstate data matching by requiring its secretary of state to investigate matches resulting from interstate comparisons.
- South Dakota enacted legislation that clarified how its voter lists may be used, adding that the information is not to be posted online for unlimited access, and increasing penalties for violating the law.
- Texas will now have the secretary of state withhold payments from county registrars if they are not registering voters and maintaining voter lists as required.
- Utah’s officials must now remove a voter’s name within five days of receiving confirmation of a voter’s death, down from the previous 21-day limit.
- New York expanded the number of courts that can be applied to in order to establish the confidentiality of registration and other records for victims of domestic violence.
- Washington D.C. enacted legislation that directly challenged requests made by the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (PACEI). California acted on this issue, via resolution.
Voter registration is where the voter experience starts. In place of the previous trend of online voter registration, automatic voter registration moved ahead. Notable legislation included:
- Illinois and Rhode Island both enacted automatic voter registration. (Colorado did so administratively.)
- Indiana made the registration process easier, requiring motor vehicle agency employees to ask whether an individual would like to also register to vote via a paper application.
- Oklahoma made changes in a similar vein so that a change of address for a driver license or state ID card submitted by a registered voter also changes their address for voter registration purposes.
- California now allows military members who are required to move under official active duty to register after the close of registration.
- California added a requirement for election officials to confirm receipt of registration for preregistered voters via text message or email.
- Delaware has eliminated a requirement that election officials mail something to a new registrant and wait 10 days to see if the mail returns as undeliverable before adding that person to the voter list, reducing an administrative burden.
- Delaware also updated its code to clarify that voters can register at any county department of elections regardless of the county of actual residence.
- Nevada will allow 17-year-olds to preregister.
- Oregon will allow 16-year-olds to preregister.
- Iowa will allow an eligible voter who will be least 18 years old by the date of the respective general election or city election to vote in a primary election.
Voter identification continued to generate lots of legislation last year, with 113 bills in 37 states, and six enactments. Notable legislation included:
- Texas enacted SB 5, which is expected to be in effect for this year’s elections. It allows a voter to cast a ballot if the voter has a reasonable impediment to acquiring a specified form of identification.
- Iowa enacted voter identification, which included mailing free voter identification cards to individuals who did not have a driver's license or non-operator ID through the Iowa Department of Transportation.
- North Dakota has amended its voter ID law once again this past year. The law was originally enacted in 2013 and amended in 2015.
- Arkansas’ new bill requires that a voter provide verification of voter registration when voting. A 2013 Arkansas voter ID law was struck down by the state Supreme Court.
- New Hampshire now requires the secretary of state to investigate when letters sent to registered voters are returned as undeliverable.
Mail and Absentee Ballots
As pre-Election Day voting continues to increase, everything related to the mechanics of these policies received increased attention in 2017—especially when it comes to absentee or mail ballots. Notable legislation included:
- Montana residents can become a permanent absentee voter if they keep the same address.
- Arizona passed a bill ensuring that ballot envelopes do not reveal vote selections.
- Delaware lawmakers removed the requirement that an absentee ballot be notarized.
- Florida now requires immediate notification if there is a problem with the signature on an absentee ballot envelope so the voter can fix the problem.
- Utah’s voters must now be given the reason why their absentee ballots were rejected so they can submit a new, correct ballot if there is enough time before Election Day.
- Arkansas added the requirement that voters be alerted if their absentee ballot has been rejected.
Post-election audits also garnered attention and support from state legislatures. Risk-limiting audits were perhaps the most noteworthy. Notable enacted legislation included:
- Rhode Island authorized risk-limiting audits.
- Virginia authorized risk-limiting audits.
- Iowa authorized the secretary of state to institute a post-election audit system that will determine by lot the counties and precincts to be audited.
- Washington enhanced its reconciliation reports and required them to be posted publicly online.
- Mississippi now requires ballot accounting reports which are to be prepared by poll managers and placed into a sealed tamper-evident ballot box.
Felon Voting Rights
The voting rights of felons generated 67 bills across 23 states, with six enactments. All six moved in the direction of returning the right to vote earlier in the criminal justice process. Notable legislation included:
- Alabama clarified which 47 crimes constitute “moral turpitude” and thus restrict a felon's restoration of voting rights.
- California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as well as county probation departments must now establish and maintain websites regarding the voting rights for people with a criminal history.
- Nevada now provides that a probationer, parolee or person who completed their sentence and was released from prison is, with certain exceptions, immediately restored the right to vote. Others who have certain types of felonies will have their right to vote restored two years after the completion of their sentence.
- Wyoming will now automatically restore the voting rights of non-violent felony offenders.