Wrap-Up of 2010 Election Legislation Enactments

2010 Election Reform Legislation



Number of Bills







Carried over to 2011



National Summary

Over 2000 bills dealing with elections were introduced in 2010 across the nation, on par with annual statistics over the previous ten years. This level of activity represents the states’ interest in providing fair elections with access for all qualified voters, and in modernizing this core function. However, 2010 was not a year of major changes; no states adopted all-mail voting, early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, or other major shifts in how their citizens will vote. Instead, many minor improvements were enacted.

Information on all 2010 state legislation from introduction to enactment can be found in NCSL’s 2001-2010 Database of Election Reform Legislation. If you would like assistance in using this database, please contact NCSL’s elections staff or call us at 303-364-7700.


Key Elections-Related Enactments: 

§ Military and Overseas Voters—At least 25 states enacted legislation to comply in full or in part with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act of 2009.  

§ Ballot access—At least 11 states addressed how many signatures are required to petition onto the ballot and other rules and procedures surrounding the petition process, and rules for write-in candidates. New Jersey explicitly permitted candidates to sign their own petitions.

§ Voter registration lists—At least 10 states enacted legislation to regulate their statewide voter registration lists or absentee voter lists, often delineating under what circumstances the lists can be used or distributed. One state, New York, included privacy protection for victims of domestic violence.

§ Disabilities—At least eight states addressed the voting rights of people with disabilities; among these, Maryland disqualified voters with mental incapacities who cannot communicate, with or without accommodation, a desire to participate in the voting process. All other action made it easier for people with disabilities to vote.

§ Primaries—At least seven states addressed either the date of primaries or who is eligible to vote in primaries. New Hampshire’s legislation was intended to “protect the tradition of the New Hampshire first-in-the-nation presidential primary.”

§ Poll workers, poll watchers, and voter challenges—At least six states enacted legislation to clarify the role and duties of poll workers, watchers, and what constitutes a vote challenger. Virginia, for instance, permitted poll watchers to use cell phones and to vote absentee.

§ Vacancies and special elections—at least four states addressed vacancies and special elections (Delaware, Kentucky, Utah, and Virginia). A new law in Wisconsin provides a method for choosing interim successors for legislators in the event of an emergency, and holding legislative meetings and sessions under emergency conditions.

§ Absentee ballots—at least five states addressed how absentee ballots are handled when received. Utah will permit the sorting of absentee ballots (but not counting them) at precincts. New York simplified the process of applying for an absentee ballot.

§ Crimes and Elections—at least three states addressed election crime either by stiffening penalties for election crimes (Oklahoma), prohibiting copying of ballot applications (Virginia), prohibiting anyone convicted of election fraud from participating in registration drives (California).

§ Pilots—four states authorized pilot programs of various kinds: South Dakota and vote centers for school district elections; Illinois and early voting; Georgia and the electronic transmission of ballots for overseas voters; California and post-canvass audits.

§ Youth and Voting—at least four states addressed voting by young adults. Arizona instituted a voter education campaign for college students, Louisiana requested that the Secretary of State develop a voter education program for high school seniors, and Delaware and Maryland permitted pre-registration for people under age 18 but over age 16.

§ Election Emergencies—two states (Minnesota and Virginia) enacted legislation defining how elections will be managed in an emergency.

§ Voter ID—two states, Idaho and Utah, enacted voter ID legislation. Idaho passed a new voter ID requirement, and Utah expanded its list of IDs acceptable at the polls to include a military ID, a Bureau of Indian Affairs card, or a tribal treaty card. Read more at NCSL’s Voter ID: State Requirements page.

§ Voting Equipment—Tennessee decided to delay the replacement or upgrading of voting systems until 2012. Utah required that all voting equipment used in the state be certified by the United States Election Assistance Commission. Virginia will allow localities to purchase enough DRE voting machines to provide one at each polling site for use by individuals with disabilities.


In addition, many states passed unique legislation.  Massachusetts ratified the agreement amongst states to elect the president by National Popular Vote; Minnesota will require an affidavit of residency from candidates; New Hampshire addressed the retention period for election data; New York asks now that polling places be established near public transit whenever possible; Rhode Island will inform voters who have been inactive for five years of their current precinct and polling place, and if the notice is returned as undeliverable, they will be placed on the inactive list; South Carolina will permit its State Board of Canvassers to meet electronically; Tennessee will require the secretary of state to annually report on the use of Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds to the General Assembly; and Virginia required that campaign robo-calls include appropriate caller ID information and clarified electioneering prohibitions at polling places.


For More Information

For more information on voter information, or to make corrections or offer additions, please contact NCSL's elections staff.