Nearly 300 bills dealing with elections were enacted in 2013, on par with previous odd-years. As is common, most new legislative enactments dealt with election administration issues. In addition, several states called for studies or commissions to improve their election processes. While most new election laws received little attention, some categories received national attention:
- Strict voter ID was enacted in Arkansas, North Carolina and Virginia.
- Online voter registration was authorized in Illinois, Virginia and West Virginia.
- Same day registration was eliminated in North Carolina and instituted in Colorado.
- Major election overhauls were approved in North Carolina (noteworthy for enacting strict voter ID), Colorado (noteworthy for moving the state to all-mail elections) and Florida (noteworthy for restoring the number of days available for early voting back to the 2010 requirement).
Compared to previous years, enactments increased for these topics: online voter registration, election crimes, electronic pollbooks, emergency managemnet, polling place requirements (especially in regard to long lines) and voter registration list maintenance.
Compared to previous years, enactments continued to be popular for these topics: voter ID, the needs of military and overseas voters, early voting, Internet voting pilot programs and absentee voting requirements.
Compared to previous years, enactments decreased for these topics: absentee voting, the National Popular Vote compact, primaries, voter registration drives and vote centers.
Information on all 2013 election legislation can be found in NCSL’s 2011-current Database of Election Legislation. If you would like assistance in using this database or want wrap-ups from other years, please contact NCSL’s elections team or call us at 303-364-7700.
Key 2013 Elections-Related Enactments
Absentee Voting: Nineteen bills were enacted that dealt with absentee voting procedures. Minnesota made the most dramatic adjustment, enacting no-excuse absentee voting (HB 894). Among others: Arkansas (SB 1067) implemented procedures to prevent misconduct during absentee voting (SB 1067); Illinois (HB 2418) permitted an absentee ballot to be requested electronically; Kentucky (HB 222) permitted victims of domestic violence to vote absentee; Texas (HB 148) prohibited compensation based on the number of absentee ballots returned; Virginia (SB 967) added additional options to the list of acceptable excuses.
All-Mail Elections: House Bill 1303 made Colorado the third all-mail state, and Maryland (HB 196) permitted special elections to be conducted entirely by mail. Commissions, Studies and Task Forces—Colorado (HB 1303) called for a modernization task force; Connecticut (SB 647) directed the secretary of state to study the secure return of ballots from UOCAVA voters; Delaware (SCR 20) established an Election Law Task Force; Maryland (HB 224) will study long lines and extending early voting through Sunday; Oregon (HB 3506) will study minority language voting materials; and Rhode Island will host a Voter Choice Study Commission.
Crimes and Elections: Twelve bills in 10 states related to election crimes. Among these, Arkansas (SB 961) made destruction of a ballot a crime; Connecticut (SB 1118) prohibited people convicted of certain crimes, such as forgery, from serving as election moderators; Hawaii (SB 827) prohibited a candidate from possessing another person’s voting materials; Kansas (SB 122) made it a crime to disclose a vote, or induce someone else to do so; Maryland (HB 224) prohibited impersonating a voter and similar fraud; Nevada (AB 48) made voter fraud a felony; North Dakota (HB 1397) identified additional election crimes; and Utah (SB 289) will appoint a special counsel to prosecute the attorney general if he/she is accused of an election crime.
Early In-Person Voting: Fifteen bills in 14 states tweaked early in-person voting. No states instituted it for the first time. Indiana (SB 388) and Ohio (SB 10) now permit voters who are in line at the end of an early voting day to cast a vote; Indiana (SB 518) changed the early voting period from 29 to 28 days; Illinois (HB 2418) required early voting sites in high traffic areas on campuses; Nebraska (LB 271) changed the start of early voting from 35 days to 30 days before Election Day; North Carolina (HB 589) reduced the number of days of early voting but not the number of hours; and Utah (HB 204) will end early voting on Thursday (rather than Friday) before Election Day.
Election Day Registration: Colorado (HB 1303) will now permit Election Day registration, and North Carolina (HB 589) eliminated it. Montana’s governor vetoed a bill to eliminate Election Day registration, after which the legislature placed a ballot measure on the 2014 ballot that will ask voters to eliminate it.
Election Emergencies: Alabama (HB 373), California (SB 362) and Louisiana (HB 191) will allow first responders serving out of state to vote absentee. California (AB 214), Oklahoma (SB 745) and Utah (HB 82) will establish procedures to be used in case of a disaster.
Felon Voting Rights: Delaware (HB 18) eliminated the existing five-year waiting period for restoration of voting rights to eligible felons who have fully discharged their sentences; California (AB 149) and Minnesota (HB 894) required voting rights information be made available to felons.
Military and Overseas Voters: Eleven states enacted legislation dealing with military and overseas voters. Most commonly, states addressed the electronic transmission of blank or voted ballots (Alaska HB 104, Connecticut SB 647, Maryland HB 224, Nevada AB 175 and Texas HB 1129).
Online Voter Registration: Online voter registration was enacted in Illinois (HB 2418), Virginia (HB 2341) and West Virginia (SB 477). New Mexico (HB 225 and HB 497) permitted online registration at state agencies, and online voter registration updates.
Polling Place Operations: Sixteen laws in 10 states dealt with polling place operations. Some of these laws address long lines, an issue that arose from the 2012 presidential election. Arkansas (HB 2145 and HB 1737) provided charitable immunity to churches serving as polling places and limited precincts to 3,000 registered voters. New Mexico (HB 219) addressed the potential for long lines by requiring adequate resources to avoid delays. Rhode Island (SB 626) permitted voters in line at the close of the polls to cast a ballot. Tennessee (SB 1320) allowed counties to consolidate polling places in municipal elections. Several states (Arkansas HB 1551, Ohio SB 109, and Texas SB 160) addressed poll watchers.
Poll Workers: Thirteen bills in nine states addressed poll workers in some way. California (AB 817) will permit non-citizens to serve in polling places as language interpreters; Mississippi (SB 2238 and SB 2239) increased compensation; Oklahoma (SB 277) will permit volunteers to serve as poll workers and Tennessee (SB 873) will permit state employees to serve; Texas (SB 553) addressed using high school students as poll workers; and Wyoming (HB 9) will compensate workers for time spent on counting board training.
Recounts: New Hampshire (S 236) and Wisconsin (S 381) fine-tuned recount deadlines and procedures.
Voter Registration: Voter registration became a prominent concern in 2013. List maintenance was addressed by Kansas (HB 2164), which will require lists to be compared with jury duty lists, and Virginia (HB 1764, HB 1765, HB 2022 and HB 1007) will engage in several new efforts to clean voter rolls. Colorado (HB 1303 and HB 1038) adopted portable registration and pre-registration beginning at age 16, and North Carolina (HB 589) eliminated pre-registration. Montana (HB 410) and Virginia (SB 1008) enacted laws to regulate third party voter registration drives.
Voting Equipment and Technology: Arkansas (SB 133) appropriated money for purchase of voting machines; California (SB 360 and AB 829) altered certification, adopted new certification standards, and required vendors to deposit an exact copy of source code with the state; Illinois (HB 2418) required that all new equipment be able to electronically export results by ballot style and precinct; Oregon (HB 2739) permitted the secretary of state to approve automated systems to verify voter signatures; Texas (HB 2373) permitted the use of signature pads; and West Virginia (HB 3135) clarified definitions of voting systems and of voter-verifiable paper audit trails.
Voter ID: Arkansas (SB 2) enacted strict photo voter ID, over the governor’s veto. New Hampshire (HB 595) changed the date that strict voter ID goes into effect by moving it to September 1, 2015, and also modified ID requirements for voters over the age of 65; North Carolina (HB 589) will require photo ID in 2016; North Dakota (HB 1332) removed an affidavit option, making its documentation requirement stricter; Oklahoma (SB 752) permitted the use of military IDs that have expired; Texas (SB 1729) will pilot a program allowing counties to provide election IDs; and Virginia (HB 1337) will require a photo ID. Read more at NCSL’s Voter ID: State Requirements page.
One-of-a-kind Election Enactments
In addition, many states passed one-of-a-kind legislation in 2013:
Arkansas (HB 1283) required that the last ballot of a deceased servicemember be counted.
Louisiana (SB 178) will provide voter registration cards at firearms retailers.
Nevada (AB 108) provided that a person whose mental capacity is declining is eligible to vote unless he or she has been judged incompetent specifically in relation to voting.
Rhode Island (HB 5575) joined the National Popular Vote compact.
Texas (SB 1102) created a cybersecurity coordinator position.