Wrap-Up of 2012 Election Legislation Enactments

Election Enactments Resources


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For more information on election-related legislation, please contact NCSL's elections team.

Vote Button 2012 Election Legislation: National Summary


Nearly 200 bills dealing with elections were enacted in 2012, continuing an upward trend seen in even-numbered years:  144 in 2004, 169 in 2006, 171 in 2008, 185 in 2010 and 195 in 2012. Additionally, seven bills were vetoed.
Even-numbered years have fewer elections-related enactments than odd-numbered years. This may be because Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas hold no legislative sessions in even-numbered years and several other states hold shorter sessions than in odd-numbered years. Also, major elections (generally those in even-numbered years) may bring to the forefront issues that lawmakers choose to address in the following (odd-numbered) years. Recent data show that 246 election-related bills were enacted in 2007, 240 in 2009 and 236 in 2011.
Few major changes occurred in 2012. The politically contentious issue of voter ID remained prominent in many states, but fewer laws relating to it were enacted than in 2011. Overall, most legislative enactments in 2012 dealt with election administration issues. In addition, several states called for studies or commissions to improve their election processes.
Compared to 2011, enactments increased for these topics: ballot access for parties and candidates, online voter registration, polling place requirements and voter registration list maintenance.
Compared to 2011, enactments continued to be popular for these topics: election crimes, the needs of military and overseas voters, and absentee voting requirements.
Compared to 2011, enactments decreased for these topics: all-mail elections, the National Popular Vote compact, primaries, pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, Internet voting pilot programs and vote centers.

The Wrap-Up of 2010 Election Legislative Enactments can be found here.
The Wrap-Up of 2011 Election Legislative Enactments can be found here.
Information on all 2012 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 staff or call us at 303-364-7700. 


Key 2012 Elections-Related Enactments:

  • Absentee and Early Voting—Seventeen bills were enacted that clarified absentee voting procedures. Among them: Connecticut (S 214) permitted permanently disabled people to have permanent absentee status. Delaware (H196) allowed disabled voters to return voted ballots electronically. Louisiana (H 197) required that an absentee ballot be returned by U.S. Postal Service, a courier service, or by hand. Michigan (S 751) and Mississippi (H 995) required absentee ballots to be managed through a ballot tracker system or statewide election system. Tennessee (H 214) dropped the minimum age for inclusion on a permanent absentee list from 65 to 60. West Virginia (H 4238) permitted people who are part of the Address Confidentiality Program to be on a permanent absentee list. Illinois (S 3722) was the only state that changed its early voting days. It changed the start date for its early voting period from 22 days before Election Day to 15, and the end date from five days before Election Day to three.

  • Ballot access—Changes to regulations for parties and candidates to get on the ballot were common. Among 22 enactments in this category, Arizona (S 1137) prohibited people with outstanding state fines to file to be candidates. California (A 2410) prohibited people convicted of certain felonies from candidacy. Louisiana (H 509) prohibited paying candidates to withdraw from a race. Utah (S 17) gave political parties the right to fill a candidate vacancy if the candidate resigns because of disability and dealt with political party formation (H 233).

  • Commissions, Studies and Task Forces—Maine (H 176) asked the secretary of state to study voter participation, voter registration and the conduct of elections. Mississippi (S 2772) called for a special task force to make recommendations to revise Mississippi's election laws. New Hampshire (H 1664) established a committee to study transferring election law enforcement to the secretary of state. Utah (H 119) called for a study regarding online petition circulation and another on all-mail elections (H 172).

  • Crimes and Elections—California (A 1436), Connecticut (H 5022) and Mississippi (S 2227) increased penalties or created categories for election-related crimes. New Hampshire (H 1673) required the Attorney General to submit regular reports on election complaints to the General Court. South Dakota (H 1186) prohibited sex offenders from circulating petitions.

  • Election Day Registration— California (A 1436) and the District of Columbia (B 628) permitted Election Day voters to register and vote on a provisional ballot. Connecticut (H 5024) approved Election Day registration.

  • Electioneering—Arizona (H 2722), Michigan (H 4653) and Virginia (H 319) set new limits on Election Day electioneering.  

  • Election Emergencies—Delaware (H 230), Kentucky (H 293) and South Dakota (SD S 58) addressed elections and emergencies.

  • Felon Voting Rights—Delaware (H 9) proposed a constitutional amendment to eliminate the existing five-year waiting period for restoration of voting rights to eligible felons who have fully discharged their sentences (this legislation requires passage again in 2013 before it goes into effect). South Dakota (H 1247) revised provisions governing suspension of voting rights.

  • Military and Overseas Voters—Twelve states enacted legislation to comply with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act of 2009, or otherwise accommodate military and overseas voters. California (A 1805), the District of Columbia (B 356), and Hawaii (H 461) dealt with the electronic transmission of ballots and balloting materials, and Virginia (S 565) enacted a law to create a pilot project on electronic transmission of ballots. California (A 1805), Michigan (H 5297) and Pennsylvania (S 1255) established the right to use a “federal write-in absentee ballot” (FWAB) for military voters.  Mississippi (S 2552) and Pennsylvania (S 1255) permitted e-signatures from military voters.

  • Online Voter Registration—Online voter registration was an active area in 2012. Connecticut (H 5024), Georgia (S 92), Hawaii (H 1755) and South Carolina (H 4945) all authorized online registration. Delaware (H 348) permitted the use of an electronic or digital signature, which enables voters who have access to a digital version of their signature to register online. Registration is also paperless for those who register in person at a motor vehicle office.

  • Polling Place Operations—Many adjustments were made to polling place operations. California (A 1724) allowed voters to remain in the voting booth longer than 10 minutes if the voter needs additional time. Georgia (S 92) restricted the use of cameras and electronic devices within polling places. Rhode Island (S 2489) increased the number of voters served per polling place, with the exception of polling places in low-income or senior housing developments (S 2977). Missouri (H 217) permitted the use of “signature pads” for voter check-in at polling places. Tennessee (H 2844) permitted polling places to be located outside the precinct but still within the municipality.

  • Poll Workers and Poll Watchers—At least eight states enacted legislation regarding poll workers and watchers. Georgia (S 101) permitted student/teen election participation programs. Tennessee (H 2844) permitted election workers to come from outside the precinct (but still within the municipality). Virginia (H 37) permitted poll workers to forego compensation.

  • Recounts—New Hampshire (S 236) and Wisconsin (S 381) fine-tuned recount deadlines and procedures.

  • Special Elections—New Hampshire (H 1136) will no longer hold primaries for uncontested special elections, a cost-saving measure. California (S 1275), Louisiana (H 894), Ohio (H 318) and Oklahoma (S 1707) made adjustments to deadlines and other aspects of special elections.

  • Voter Registration—Voter registration is a perennial topic for legislation. Among many bills, Michigan (S 823 and S 825) prohibited compensation in certain circumstances for people who register others to vote, Utah (S 18) permitted the state to include a space for an email address on a voter registration form and Virginia (H 57) provided protection for voter information in certain circumstances.

  • Voting Equipment and Technology—Arkansas (H 1155) appropriated money for voting system grants to counties and Hawaii (H 2437) appropriated money for the 2012 election season. California (A 1929) exempted ballot marking systems from the definition of a voting system, Idaho (H 491) clarified that any voting machine or vote tallying equipment must be certified by the secretary of state, and Tennessee (H 386) made the use of precinct-based optical scanners and ballot-on-demand technology discretionary rather than mandatory.

  • Voter ID—New Hampshire (S 289) and Pennsylvania (H 934) strengthened voter ID requirements. The New Hampshire law was implemented for the 2012 presidential election, whereas the Pennsylvania law was not, owing to court challenges. In addition: Kansas (S 129) added a tribal ID to its list of accepted IDs. Mississippi (H 921) required that voter identification cards be made available. South Carolina (H 3003) made a number of tweaks to its voter ID requirements, including creating a master list of state residents not required to show an ID to vote. Minnesota (HB 2738) put a constitutional amendment about voter ID on the statewide ballot, where it was rejected. Virginia (companion bills S 1 and H 9) required a photo ID but allowed voters without ID to use an affidavit to vote a provisional ballot, and added handgun permits to the list of acceptable ID (S 663). Wisconsin (S 271) required that applications for absentee ballots include a photocopy of approved ID. This law was not implemented, pending court challenges. Read more at NCSL’s Voter ID: State Requirements page.

  • Voter List Maintenance—Cleaning voter rolls was on the minds of lawmakers in many states. Connecticut (H 5024) permitted voter registration data to be compared with that of other states. Delaware (H 196) and South Dakota (S 128) gave the counties responsibility for maintaining voter lists.  Michigan (S 751) required the creation of an inactive voter list. Oklahoma (S 301 and S 1170) addressed the submission of death certificates. Utah (H 105 and U H 253) required voter names to be removed under certain circumstances, such as notification of death or criminal conviction. Virginia (H 1007) required prompt transmittal of voter registration applications from the Department of Motor Vehicles and established who may gain access to voter registration lists (H 1118).

  • Write-ins—California (S 1272), Kentucky (H 293), Virginia (H 60) and West Virginia (H 4403) all addressed regulations for write-in candidates.

In addition, many states passed one-of-a-kind legislation in 2012:

  • Alaska (S 31) passed a law clarifying how write-in votes are to be counted.

  • Arkansas (S 975) permitted election results to be sent to the secretary of state’s office electronically.

  • Delaware (H 11) abolished fusion voting, a system that permits an individual to be the candidate for more than one political party.

  • Hawaii (H  2251) authorized county clerks to conduct all-mail elections in certain circumstances.

  • Illinois (S 98) added residents of veterans homes to the list of people who can be added to the permanent absentee voting list.

  • Michigan (H 4992) required that voting instructions be posted in the voting booth and  that post-election “audits” of procedures be conducted (H 5062).

  • South Carolina resolution (H 3152) proposed a constitutional amendment that would have the lieutenant governor elected jointly with the governor (voters approved this change in the November 2012 election).

  • Tennessee (H 377) prohibited purging of voter rolls based on divorce.

  • Virginia (H 2251) required that electronic poll-books be backed up with a paper version and that an absentee ballot cast before Election Day by a voter who then dies before Election Day be counted (H 1568).

  • Utah (S19) made the mailing of a voter information pamphlet optional in certain circumstances while continuing to permit voters to request a printed voter information pamphlet.

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