The Ballot Bulletin: Ballotpedia’s Weekly Digest on Election Administration, February 24, 2023

Ballotpedia's The Ballot Bulletin

Welcome to The Ballot Bulletin: Ballotpedia’s Weekly Digest on Election Administration. Every Friday, we 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 on this week. 
  • The big picture
    • Legislative status: The number of bills introduced, voted on, or enacted into law.
    • Concentration of activity: The states that have had the most legislative activity.
    • Partisan affiliation of sponsorship: The number of bills that Democrats and Republicans have sponsored. 
  • Recent news: Noteworthy developments in election policy at the federal, state, and local levels, including litigation and ballot measures. 

Legislative activity

Since Feb. 17, state legislatures have acted on 294 bills, a 1.7% increase from last week’s 289 bills. These 294 bills represent 18.4% of the 1,596 pieces of legislation we are currently tracking. Of these bills, 124 are from states with Democratic trifectas, 127 are from states with Republican trifectas, and 43 are from states with divided governments.

231 bills were introduced (or had pre-committee action).

  • Democratic trifectas: 120
  • Republican trifectas: 81
  • Divided governments: 30

13 bills advanced from committee. 

  • Democratic trifectas: 2
  • Republican trifectas: 6
  • Divided governments: 5

37 bills passed one chamber (or had pre-adoption action in the second chamber). 

  • Democratic trifectas: 2
  • Republican trifectas: 30
  • Divided governments: 5

Ten bills passed both chambers. Those bills, with their official bill titles, are:

  • Republican trifectas: 7
    • ID H0001: Amends existing law to provide requirements for post election audits ordered by the Secretary of State.
    • SD SB102: Require the continued maintenance of the official list of candidates prior to an election.
    • UT SB0063: Election Candidate Replacement Amendments
    • UT HB0162: Voter Accessibility Amendments
    • UT SB0017: Voting and Voter Residency Amendments
    • WY HB0047: Election equipment-federal certification.
    • WY HB0279: Voter identification requirements.
  • Divided governments: 3
    • VA SB1151: Local government; standardization of public notice requirements for certain intended actions.
    • VA HB1948: Absentee voting; removes witness requirement, required information on return ballot envelope.
    • VA HB2161: Local government; standardization of public notice requirements for certain intended actions.

Two bills were enacted.

  • Republican trifectas: 2
    • WY HB0079: Voter I.D. – concealed carry permit.
      •  This bill allows voters to use a valid concealed carry permit as a form of voter identification.
    • WY HB0005: Voter registry list – voter ID and absentee ballots.
      • This bill requires that each voter have a unique identification number generated by the state. It also requires each official registry list to include voters’ unique identification numbers, information regarding absentee ballot status, and information regarding registration status.

The big picture

To date, we have tracked 1,596 election-related bills. 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 on.
  • 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 show 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 1,596 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 sums of the numbers listed do not equal the total number of bills because some bills deal with multiple topics.

Recent news

U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear Maryland election lawsuit

On Feb. 21, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear former Maryland gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox’s (R) appeal in a lawsuit challenging mail-in ballot counting procedures during the 2022 general election. Cox appealed the Maryland Supreme Court’s Oct. 7, 2022, ruling upholding Montgomery County Circuit Judge James A. Bonifant’s decision allowing election officials to count mail-in ballots as soon as Oct. 1. Bonifant said the early counting of mail-in ballots was allowable under a Maryland law that permits courts to take action if “necessary to provide a remedy that is in the public interest and protects the integrity of the electoral process.” In the petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, Cox’s attorney said, “The U.S. Constitution requires that the rules for holding an election be made only by the legislative body of the state holding those elections. … [T]he Maryland Circuit Court for Montgomery County prescribed the manner of holding elections in Maryland, in direct contradiction of the manner already set by the Maryland legislature.” Wes Moore (D) defeated Cox in the 2022 general election, receiving 65% of the vote to Cox’s 32%.

Minnesota Supreme Court upholds law restricting felon voting 

On Feb. 15, the Minnesota Supreme Court voted 6-1 to uphold a state law that prohibits convicted felons from voting until they have fully served their sentences, including probation periods or parole. The decision is the result of a lawsuit four individuals with felony records filed in 2019. In the majority opinion, Justices Gordon Moore, Barry Anderson, Margaret Chutich, Paul Thissen, Anne K. McKeig, and Lorie Gildea said, the “Minnesota Constitution empowers the Legislature to address the public policy concerns raised” by the lawsuit. The only dissenting judge, Justice Natalie Hudson, said the plaintiffs presented “strong, uncontested evidence that [the law] has a disparate impact by creating a racial classification in practice.” Former Gov. Mark Dayton (D) appointed Chutich, Thissen, McKeig, and Hudson, while former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) appointed Anderson and Gildea. Gov. Tim Walz (D) appointed Moore.