With legislative sessions moving right along and five states having adjourned, it’s time to put the crystal ball away and report on this year’s legislative trends.
While absentee voting, voter registration and election security continue as mainstays, 2023 has brought three new topics to the fore. All the bills discussed below are pending as of March 28, unless specified otherwise.
Presidential Electors and the National Popular Vote
The marquee presidential contest may be a year and change away, but that doesn’t mean it’s far from lawmakers’ minds. So far in 2023, 17 states have introduced 40 bills relating to presidential electors and the Electoral College.
About half of these bills relate to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, an agreement in which states award electoral votes to the presidential and vice presidential candidates who win the overall popular vote in the 50 states and Washington, D.C., rather than the winner in their states. Currently, 15 states and the District of Columbia are a part of the compact, with proposals sponsored by Democrats to join under consideration in Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina and Texas. But there are two sides to every issue—case in point, a separate bill in Arizona seeks to enshrine the existing Electoral College system in statute, and at least three introductions in Connecticut would withdraw the Constitution State from the compact, led by Republican lawmakers in both states.
The remaining 21 bills address the presidential electors themselves and the process for selecting them—action likely spurred by the recent passage of the Electoral Count Reform Act in Congress. Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois and New York are considering proposals to curb “faithless electors”—members of the Electoral College who cast their votes for candidates other than those who won the popular vote in their state. Kansas is weighing two proposals on electors, one requiring political parties to adopt procedures for their selection and another making it a crime to falsify electoral vote certificates. In a similar vein, Nevada is considering legislation that would make serving as a fake elector—or creating a false slate of presidential electors—a felony.
Citizenship and Voting
Citizenship status—either requiring voters to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote or creating additional voter registration list maintenance procedures to identify potential noncitizens—is hot. Fifteen states have introduced 26 bills on citizenship and voting this year.
Many of these bills would change the registration process. Connecticut, Hawaii and New York introduced legislation that would require voters to show proof of citizenship when registering. A bill in Minnesota would both require voters to show proof of citizenship when registering and prohibit state agencies, such as motor vehicle agencies, from transmitting registrations to election officials that do not meet this requirement.
Washington is considering adding a notation on driver’s licenses to indicate that, when obtaining their license, the holder presented U.S. citizenship documentation sufficient to register to vote.
On the voter registration list maintenance side, Kansas introduced legislation that would require the secretary of state to revise the information collected from registrants so that the state can use the federal SAVE database (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements) to delete noncitizens from voter registration rolls, and Wisconsin is considering a bill to allow the Wisconsin Election Commission to access personally identifiable information maintained by the Department of Transportation to verify that individuals on the official registration list are U.S. citizens.
For the past several years, there’s been a trend toward ballot measures placing constitutional bans on noncitizen voting. Noncitizens are prohibited from voting in federal elections; however, a handful of municipalities across the country allow noncitizens to vote in local elections only. Louisiana and Ohio voters approved such measures last year, and this year two states—Oregon and Texas—are debating constitutional amendments that would prohibit noncitizens from voting. If passed, both proposals would need voter approval.
Protecting Election Workers and Officials
Amid a wave of threats to election officials after the 2020 election, several states took legislative action to codify protections for them—a trend that has continued this year.
At least 10 states are considering 11 bills aimed at shielding election workers and officials from threats, harassment and other acts of intimidation. A bill introduced in Arizona would establish an election worker harassment task force and require annual reporting, beginning on Jan. 1, 2025, of the number and nature of reported threats against election officers and workers.
Indiana is considering two bills on election workers: HB 1225 would add election workers to the state’s definition of “public official,” thereby making acts of violence against them a felony; HB 1465 would enhance criminal penalties for threats against election workers by placing them in the same category as judicial officers, prosecutors and other public officials who face threats as a result of their profession. A similar proposal in New Mexico would expand threat protections to state and municipal election workers; it awaits the governor’s signature.
Oklahoma enacted criminal punishments for threats and intimidation against election officials with the intent of influencing an election. Minnesota, New York and Texas are weighing bills that would criminalize harassment of or interference with election officials carrying out their duties. And a Maryland measure would protect against public disclosure of the identity, home address or other personal information of election officials, with additional protections for their families. (A similar Wyoming bill failed in committee.)
To learn more about this year’s legislation, visit NCSL’s State Elections Legislation Database.
Saige Draeger is a policy associate in NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting Program.