Halftime report: what states have done so far on election policy

Welcome to The Ballot Bulletin, where we track developments in election policy at the federal, state, and local levels. Each issue includes an in-depth feature—such as an interview or legislative analysis—and discussions of recent events relating to electoral and primary systems, redistricting, and voting provisions.

Halftime report: what states have done so far on election policy

With more than half of the states having wrapped up their legislative sessions for the year, here’s a summary of what states have done so far on election policy.

  • Redistricting legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked 221 bills regarding redistricting policy. Seventeen of them have become law.
    • Examples of enacted legislation:
      • Mississippi JR202: Signed into law April 3, JR202 revised the boundaries of Mississippi State Senate Districts 13 and 22. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi had earlier ruled that District 22 constituted an illegal racial gerrymander.
      • Virginia HB2760: Signed into law March 22, HB2760 requires municipal clerks to transmit Geographic Information System (GIS) maps to local election boards, the secretary of the commonwealth, the state elections department, and the legislative services division when altering local electoral districts or precincts.
  • Electoral systems legislation: So far this year we’ve tracked 120 bills regarding electoral systems policy, addressing such issues as ranked-choice voting and the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Eleven of them have become law.
    • Examples of enacted legislation:
      • New Mexico HB55: Signed into law March 12, HB55 entered New Mexico into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Member states agree to award their presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote once states totaling at least 270 Electoral College votes have joined the compact.
      • Utah HB0277: Signed into law March 26, HB0277 amended provisions of Utah’s Municipal Alternative Voting Methods Pilot Project. Under the pilot project, municipalities can opt to conduct municipal elections using ranked-choice voting.
  • Primary systems legislation: We’ve tracked 11 bills this year regarding primary systems policy, addressing such issues as top-two primaries and open primaries. None of these 11 bills has become law.
    • Examples of proposed legislation:
      • Maine LD114: LD114 would have established a top-two primary system for elections for the offices of U.S. senator, U.S. representative, governor, state senator, and state representative. The bill died in committee.
      • North Carolina H994: H994 proposes establishing a top-four primary system for elections for any state or congressional office. H994 also proposes establishing ranked-choice voting for general elections for these offices. The bill is currently in committee.

In other election policy news

  • Electoral systems in Massachusetts: On May 15, the Easthampton City Council approved a charter amendment that would, if approved by voters, implement ranked-choice voting for municipal elections. The state Legislature must approve the amendment language before the measure can appear on the November ballot. If voters approve the charter amendment, ranked-choice voting would be used in Easthampton’s 2021 municipal elections. Amherst and Cambridge, Mass. have both adopted ranked-choice voting for their municipal elections.
  • Redistricting in Michigan and Ohio: On May 24, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed lower court orders in Michigan and Ohio that had struck down district plans as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. The court is expected to issue rulings in two partisan gerrymandering cases—Rucho v. Common Cause and Benisek v. Lamone—by the end of the month.
  • Redistricting in Nevada and Washington: In May, the governors of Nevada and Washington signed into law bills requiring state prison inmates be counted as residents of their home addresses for redistricting purposes. The U.S. Census Bureau, which provides the population data sets that form the foundation of redistricting and reapportionment efforts, counts prisoners as residents of the places where they are incarcerated. In addition to Nevada and Washington, four other states—California, Delaware, Maryland, and New York—have adopted legislation providing for adjusting the census data to reflect prisoners’ home addresses as their residences.

Legislation update: Redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems bills

The maps below show which states are considering redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems legislation. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills.

Redistricting legislation as of June 3, 2019

Electoral systems legislation as of June 3, 2019

Primary systems legislation as of June 3, 2019

Primary systems June 2019 map.png

About the author

Jerrick Adams

Jerrick Adams is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.