More election bills were enacted in 2019 than any year going back to at least 2011. Lawmakers enacted 367 election-related bills last year, up slightly from the 336 bills enacted in 2019. All but four states enacted election legislation in 2019. These numbers track with the growth in attention to elections as the nation heads into 2020.
NCSL’s Elections Legislation Database contains exact numbers for 2019 and previous years, as well as bills introduced in 2020.
Voter registration was the most common topic, with 46 enactments, followed by pre-Election Day voting (40), election security (18) and voting equipment and vote-by-mail (15 each).
This webpage provides highlights on key 2019 election-related enactments. For additional information or questions, please contact NCSL’s elections team.
Key 2019 Election-Related Enactments
Voter registration represented the number one topic in election administration legislation, with 46 bills enacted in 28 states. Notable enactments included:
- Maryland enacted Election Day voter registration for those who can demonstrate proof of residency.
- Montana will now allow military and overseas voters to use a digital signature when registering to vote.
- New Mexico enacted an automatic voter registration system and established same-day registration.
- Hawaii established Election Day registration.
- New York will now require all public universities to enact programs to register students to vote.
- Arizona will now require counties to report to the Secretary of State any individuals registering to vote without providing citizenship data.
Pre-Election Day Voting
Twenty-two states passed 40 bills on Pre-Election Day voting (early in-person voting and no-excuse absentee voting combined), representing one of the most prominent trends in 2019. Some notable enactments included:
- Hawaii repealed a requirement that deemed absentee or military overseas votes invalid if the voter died prior to Election Day.
- New Hampshire now permits unrelated caregivers to deliver absentee ballots on behalf of voters who reside in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
- Virginia now requires that an applicant who is in line for in-person absentee voting when the polling place closes will be permitted to cast a ballot.
- Alabama authorized the Secretary of State to create a permanent absentee voter list upon voter showing proof of a permanent disability.
- Montana now allows a voter who registers late to return their absentee ballot to a polling place on Election Day.
- Delaware established early in-person voting which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2022.
- New York now allows early in-person voting beginning the 10th day prior to any election and ending on, and including, the second day prior to the election.
Election security was on the forefront of legislator’s minds across the country, as 18 bills were enacted in 14 states. Some notable enactments included:
- Ohio created the Civilian Cyber Security Reserve to be staffed by volunteer citizen cybersecurity experts and required the appointment of a state Chief Information Security Officer.
- Indiana now requires two-factor authentication to access the statewide voter file, along with establishing other security measures.
- California now requires those who will receive voter information to take a training course on data security.
- Texas now requires the secretary of state to define classes of protected election data and establish best practices for election security, as well as provide training to appropriate personnel in their office and county officials. The bill also requires that county officials notify the secretary of any election system breach, and the secretary is then required to notify the legislature.
- Iowa required the state registrar to prescribe rules for election security training requirements, technology safeguards, and breach incident response requirements.
- Arkansas will now require the State Board of Elections to conduct risk-limiting audits.
- Indiana permits the secretary of state to select counties for a risk-limiting audit pilot program, and to designate certain elections to be subject to risk-limiting audits.
- Oklahoma will now permit the State Board of Elections to direct counties to conduct post-election audits. The bill also requires counties to implement cyber and physical security measures around elections, and to notify the State Board of any breaches of election systems.
The movement toward more all-mail elections continued in 2019 with 15 bills on mail voting being enacted in 10 states. Notable enactments included:
- Hawaii established all-mail voting for all elections statewide. It joins Colorado, Oregon, Utah and Washington in using all-mail elections statewide.
- New Jersey established a permanent absentee list to allow voters to request mail ballots for all elections.
- Oregon will now require the state to pay for ballot return envelopes that can be returned by business reply mail in each election.
- Washington will now require the state to reimburse counties for the cost of return postage on voted mail ballots for all elections.
- California prohibited employers from requiring or requesting that employees bring their mail ballot to work or vote their mail ballot at work.
Concerns over election security and attacks by malicious actors spurred activity around voting equipment in 2019, with 15 bills enacted in 14 states. Notable enactments included:
- Pennsylvania provided requirements for the disapproval or decertification of voting apparatuses.
- Montana specified that an approved ballot-marking device with accessible voting features for disabled individuals must be available at every polling place.
- New Hampshire will now require the Ballot Law Commission to approve a new secure electronic ballot counting device at regular intervals.
- Wyoming created an Election Readiness Account to pay for future replacement and maintenance of voting systems.
- Delaware made necessary changes to state election laws based on the purchase of new voting devices, and established auditing requirements for the new devices.
Voting Rights of Formerly Incarcerated Citizens
Seven states continued the nationwide shift towards restoring voting rights for formerly incarcerated citizens, with eight bills enacted. Notable enactments included:
- Illinois established a program to facilitate voting for eligible voters confined in county jails, and to provide education on voting rights for incarcerated individuals prior to their release.
- Nevada provided for the immediate restoration of voting rights upon release from prison.
- New Jersey removed a prohibition on voting for convicted felons who are on probation or parole.
- Washington will now require the Department of Corrections to notify inmates of the process to restore their voting rights prior to release from prison.
- Colorado removed a prohibition on voting for individuals on parole.
Electoral College/National Popular Vote
The movement to adopt the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact continued in 2019, with four states joining the compact. (While a handful of bills to remove states from the compact were introduced, none of those were enacted.) Notable enactments included:
- Colorado, Oregon, Delaware, and New Mexico enacted bills joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
- Washington enacted the “Uniform Faithful Presidential Electors Act,” seeking to bind the electoral votes of its presidential electors following its “faithless” elector controversy in 2016. The U.S. Supreme Court is now set to hear a case this year involving lawsuits brought by Washington and Colorado electors to challenge their states’ ability to bind their votes.
- Georgia amended its provisions for certification by the governor of presidential electors for independent candidates.
- Youth Pollworkers: Alabama, Arkansas, Maryland and Virginia now will allow teens to help in polling places.
- Precincting and Geographic Information: North Carolina is participating with the Census Bureau’s 2020 Voting District Verification Project, and New Jersey and Virginia will have local jurisdictions provide current electoral, jurisdictional and precinct maps to the state, where they’ll be made available to the public.
- Study Groups: Maine will study post-election audits and recounts; New Hampshire will study ways to improve civic engagement; and Tennessee will study “convenience voting.”
- One of a Kind: Utah established Utah Women’s Voter Registration Day; Washington created a Native American Voting Rights Act; and Texas allows “Register to Vote” license plates.