The Ballot Bulletin: Ballotpedia’s Weekly Digest on Election Administration, March 3, 2023

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. 24, state legislatures have acted on 280 bills, a 4.4% decrease from last week’s 294 bills. Of these bills, 78 are from states with Democratic trifectas, 160 are from states with Republican trifectas, and 42 are from states with divided governments. These 280 bills represent 16.5% of the 1,701 pieces of legislation we are currently tracking. At this point in 2022, we were tracking 2,204 pieces of legislation. 

The bill topic with the most activity this week was contest-specific procedures (46), a category that includes primary systems, municipal election procedures, recall elections, special election procedures, and other systems unique to a particular election type. Other topics with the most activity included ballot access (37), audits and oversight (30), voter registration and list maintenance (29), and ballot counting and certification (27). 

One bill was defeated in committee or by floor vote.

  • Republican trifectas: 1

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

  • Democratic trifectas: 66
  • Republican trifectas: 96
  • Divided governments: 25

27 bills advanced from committee. 

  • Democratic trifectas: 4
  • Republican trifectas: 18
  • Divided governments: 5

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

  • Democratic trifectas: 8
  • Republican trifectas: 24
  • Divided governments: 10

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

  • Republican trifectas: 21
    • SD HB1112: Modify provisions for a statewide runoff election.
    • SD HB1123: Authorize school boards to modify the length of terms for members to allow for holding joint elections.
    • SD HB1148: Clarify registration and residence requirements for voting at a township meeting.
    • SD SB102: Require the continued maintenance of the official list of candidates prior to an election.
    • SD SB46: Enhance the penalty for petition circulation perjury.
    • SD SB161: Make an appropriation to the Office of the Secretary of State for voter roll maintenance, ballot machines, and election security.
    • SD SB140: Revise certain provisions relating to voter registration.
    • SD SB160: Establish post-election audits.
    • SD HB1124: Modify provisions pertaining to the testing of automatic tabulating equipment.
    • SD SB55: Prohibit ranked-choice voting.
    • SD SB40: Revise the process for nominating candidates for the offices of lieutenant governor, attorney general, and secretary of state.
    • SD SB139: Revise provisions qualifications for the purposes of voter registration.
    • SD SJR505: Proposing and submitting to the electors at the next general election an amendment to the Constitution of the State of South Dakota, updating references to certain officeholders and persons.
    • UT SB0043: Public Notice Requirements
    • 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 HB0103: Political party affiliation declaration and changes.
    • WY SF0131: Prohibition on delivery of unsolicited ballot forms.
    • WY SF0153: Election security.
  • Divided governments: 2
    • 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.

The big picture

To date, we have tracked 1,701 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 1,701 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. Click here to see a full list of subject categories. 

Recent news

District court dismisses Arkansas redistricting case

On Feb. 22, U.S. District Judge Lee Rudofsky, who was appointed by President Donald Trump (R), dismissed a challenge to Arkansas’ state House districts. On Dec. 29, 2021, the Arkansas State Conference NAACP and the Arkansas Public Policy Panel sued the Board of Apportionment and its three members, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), Sec. of State John Thurston (R), and Atty. Gen. Leslie Rutledge (R). The plaintiffs sought “declaratory and injunctive relief prohibiting the implementation of [the new districts] on the ground that their members are irreparably harmed by living and voting in districts whose boundaries dilute Black voting strength.” Rudofsky said, “After a thorough analysis of the text and structure of the Voting Rights Act, and a painstaking journey through relevant caselaw, the Court has concluded that this case may be brought only by the Attorney General of the United States.” Rudofsky dismissed the case after the Justice Department declined to intervene. The new state House district maps went into effect Dec. 29, 2021.

Lawsuit challenges New York City Council districts

Petitioners represented by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund sued in the New York City Supreme Court on Feb. 24 alleging that newly redrawn city council districts unfairly split local communities. The plaintiffs said, “The most recent example of unlawfully separating the Asian community came with the New York City Districting Commission certification of its 2022 redistricting plan splitting Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park into three city council districts — despite immense community support for a unified district.” In a Feb. 27 filing, Aimee K. Lulich, the attorney representing the Districting Commission, said the “petitioners cannot establish any of the requirements necessary for emergency injunctive relief,” adding, “An injunction of the Plan at this stage will result in considerable delay to the elections of 2023 and cost to the City and candidates.” The court has scheduled a hearing in the case for March 7.