Introducing The Ballot Bulletin: Ballotpedia’s Weekly Digest on Election Administration

Welcome to The Ballot Bulletin: Ballotpedia’s Weekly Digest on Election Administration. This is the first edition of a new and expanded version of this newsletter, now including both recent news related to election policy and in-depth data from our Election Administration Legislation Tracker. Every Friday, we’ll deliver the latest updates on election policy around the country, including legislative activity, big-picture trends, and recent news.

In today’s issue, you’ll find: 

  • Legislative activity: About the bills acted upon this week. 
  • The big picture: Bills in the aggregate. 
    • Legislative status: How many bills have been introduced, voted upon, or enacted into law?
    • Concentration of activity: What states have seen the highest concentration of legislative activity?
    • Partisan affiliation of sponsorship: How many bills have been sponsored by Democrats vs. Republicans? 
  • Recent news: Noteworthy developments in election policy at the federal, state, and local levels, including litigation and ballot measures. 

Legislative activity

Since Jan. 27, state legislatures have acted on 322 bills, a 17.1% increase from last week’s 275 bills. These 322 bills represent 27% of the 1,192 bills we are currently tracking this year. Seventy-three of these bills are from states with Democratic trifectas, 177 are from states with Republican trifectas, and 72 are from states with a divided government.

Sixteen bills were defeated in committee or by floor vote.

  • Republican trifectas: 16

Two-hundred and seventy-six bills were introduced (or saw pre-committee action).

  • Democratic trifectas: 69
  • Republican trifectas: 141
  • Divided governments: 66

Nine bills advanced from committee. 

  • Democratic trifectas: 1
  • Republican trifectas: 6
  • Divided governments: 2

Twenty bills passed one chamber (or saw pre-adoption action in the second chamber). Those bills, with their official bill titles, are:

  • Democratic trifectas: 2
    • WA HB1049: Updating timelines for adopting county commissioner district boundaries following expansion from three to five commissioners.
    • NY S00822: Permits electronic correspondence with regard to determinations on objections to designating petitions, independent nominating petitions, certificates of nomination or ballot access documents upon the consent of the objector.
  • Republican trifectas: 14
    • SD SB102: Require the continued maintenance of the official list of candidates prior to an election.
    • SD HB1115: Revise certain provisions pertaining to the destruction of ballots and pollbooks after an election.
    • SD HB1112: Modify provisions for a statewide runoff election.
    • UT SB0063: Election Candidate Replacement Amendments
    • WY HB0103: Political party affiliation declaration and changes.
    • AR HB1025: To Amend The Law Concerning Circulation Of Petitions; And To Limit Petition Circulation At Polling Places.
    • MT SB61: Clarify definition of election officials
    • ND HB1192: Relating to electronic voting systems, electronic voting devices, absentee voting, and canvassing boards.
    • UT SB0043: Public Notice Requirements
    • ND HB1424: Relating to a candidate’s contact information and the form of a nominating petition and a certificate of endorsement.
    • ND HB1431: Relating to proof of citizenship.
    • ND SB2292: Relating to election offenses and election observers; and to provide a penalty.
    • WY HB0047: Election equipment-federal certification.
    • WY HB0079: Voter I.D.-concealed carry permit.
  • Divided governments: 4
    • VA HB1444: Elections; voter identification containing a photograph required, availability of absentee voting.
    • VA HB1948: Absentee voting; removes witness requirement, required information on return ballot envelope.
    • VA HB1910: Absentee voting; unsolicited absentee ballot applications; required information; penalty.
    • VA HB2161: Local government; standardization of public notice requirements for certain intended actions.

One bill was enacted. 

  • Democratic trifectas: 1
    • MI SB0013: Elections: presidential primary; presidential primary election date; revise. Amends sec. 613a of 1954 PA 116 (MCL 168.613a).
      • This bill sets the presidential primary election date as the fourth Tuesday in February for 2024 and each presidential election year thereafter. The bill also requires political parties to have received at least five percent of the total vote cast nationwide for the office of president in the last presidential election to participate in the state’s presidential primary election. 

The big picture

To date, we have tracked 1,192 election-related bills in 2023. These bills were either introduced this year or crossed over from last year’s legislative sessions. 

Legislative status 

The pie charts below show the legislative status of the bills we are tracking. The following status indicators are used: 

  • Introduced: The bill has been pre-filed, introduced, or referred to committee but has not otherwise been acted upon.
  • Advanced from committee: The bill has received a favorable vote in committee. It has either advanced to another committee or to the floor for a vote. 
  • Passed one chamber: One chamber has approved the bill.
  • Conference committee: Chambers have passed differing versions of the bill, and a conference committee has been appointed to reconcile the differences. 
  • Passed both chambers: The bill has cleared both chambers of the legislature. 
  • Enacted: The bill has been enacted into law, by gubernatorial action or inaction or veto override. 
  • Vetoed: The bill has been vetoed. 
  • Dead: The bill has been defeated in committee or on the floor. 

The pie charts below visualize the legislative status of bills in Democratic and Republican trifectas, respectively. 

Concentration of activity

The map below shows the concentration of legislative activity across the nation. A darker shade of orange indicates a higher number of relevant bills that have been introduced. A lighter shade of orange indicates a lower number of relevant bills. 

Partisan affiliation of sponsor(s)

The pie chart below shows the partisan affiliation of bill sponsors.

Bills by topic

The chart below shows the topics of a sample of the 1,192 bills we have tracked this year. The number listed on the blue portion of each bar indicates the number of Democratic-sponsored bills dealing with the subject in question. The number listed on the red portion of the bar indicates the number of Republican-sponsored bills. The purple and gray portions of the bar indicate the number of bipartisan-sponsored bills and bills with unspecified sponsorship, respectively. Note that the numbers listed here will not, when summed, equal the total number of bills because some bills deal with multiple topics.

Recent news

Federal appellate court considers private-party lawsuits

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit heard arguments on Jan. 11 in a lawsuit concerning the ability of private parties to sue under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race. In February 2022, U.S. District Court Judge Lee Rudofsky, an appointee of former President Donald Trump (R), ruled that private parties cannot sue under Section 2 after the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP challenged the state’s House map. Rudofsky ruled that only the U.S. attorney general can bring a Section 2 lawsuit. CNN’s Tierney Sneed said, “A decision from the 8th Circuit is unlikely to come for at least several weeks.” 

Alaska Lieutenant Governor approves initiative to end ranked-choice voting

On Jan. 22, Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom (R) approved a ballot initiative for circulation that would eliminate open top-four primaries and ranked-choice voting in general elections and establish a party primary system. Alaskans for Honest Elections, an organization opposed to ranked-choice voting, submitted the proposal. Dahlstrom’s action allows supporters to begin gathering the 30,000 signatures required for the measure to appear on the 2024 ballot. Alaska established open top-four primaries and ranked-choice voting when voters approved  Ballot Measure 2 in 2020. Alaska and Maine are the only states that have implemented ranked-choice voting for federal and state elections. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has expressed her support for the new measure. 

Wisconsin circuit court hears absentee ballot suit

On Jan. 24, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Nia Trammell heard arguments over whether absentee ballots without parts of a witness’s address should be counted. The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin filed the lawsuit against the Wisconsin Elections Commission on Sept. 30, 2022. Wisconsin law says absentee ballots without a witness’ address cannot be counted. The lawsuit asks the court to rule on conflicting interpretations of what constitutes a missing address. According to Wisconsin Elections Commission guidelines, an address must contain a street number, street name, and municipality. The League’s attorneys say an absentee ballot is not missing an address if any one of those three components is present.