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, nationwide trends, and recent news.
In today’s issue, you’ll find:
- Legislative activity: About the bills acted on this week and a big-picture look at all the bills we have tracked this year, including the 11 bills enacted over the past week.
- Recent news: Noteworthy developments in election policy at the federal, state, and local levels, including litigation and ballot measures.
State legislatures acted on 140 election-related bills from April 28 to May 4, down from 158 bills the previous week. Of these, 79 either passed one chamber, passed both chambers, were enacted, or were defeated.
- These 140 bills represent 5.7% of the 2,446 election-related bills introduced in 2023. At this point in 2022, 79 bills had been acted on in some way in the past week, and we were tracking 2,508 election-related bills, 2.5% more than this year.
- Of the 79 bills moving beyond the introductory stage in the past week, 10 (12.7%) are in Democratic trifecta states, 68 (86.1%) are in Republican trifecta states, and one (1.3%) is in a state with a divided government.
- The bill topics with the most legislative activity this week were audits and oversight (31), ballot access (24), contest-specific procedures (21), counting and certification (21), and election dates and deadlines (21). Contest-specific procedures refers to primary systems, municipal election procedures, recall elections, special election procedures, and other systems unique to a particular election type.
Recent activity and status changes
Of all election-related bills in state legislatures in 2023:
- 116 have been enacted (+30 from last week)
- 38 passed both chambers (-26)
- 187 passed one chamber (+1)
- 2 advanced from committee (No change)
- 1,886 have been introduced (-145)
- 208 are dead (+144)
States have enacted 116 election-related bills in 2023, three more than the 113 bills states had enacted at this point in 2022. Of these 116 bills, Democrats sponsored 19 (16.4%), Republicans sponsored 65 (56%), and 16 (13.8%) had bipartisan sponsorship. Committees or legislators with a party affiliation other than Republican or Democrat sponsored the remaining 16 (13.8%) bills. To see all bills approved this year, click here.
Bills enacted since April 28, with their official titles, are listed below.
Michigan (Democratic trifecta)
- MI SB0259: Elections: absent voters; tabulating absent voter ballots received up to 6 days after an election from an absent uniformed services voter or overseas voter; provide for. Amends secs. 759a & 764a of 1954 PA 116 (MCL 168.759a & 168.764a).
Montana (Republican trifecta)
- MT SB61: Clarify definition of election officials
- MT SB117: Prohibiting use of certain funds for conducting an election
- MT HB598: Prohibit use of ranked-choice voting methods
Tennessee (Republican trifecta)
- TN HB1039: AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 2-3-102, relative to reviewing assignments of voters to precincts and districts.
- TN SB0854: AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 2, Chapter 17 and Title 2, Chapter 8, relative to elections.
- TN SB0760: AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 2-3-102, relative to reviewing assignments of voters to precincts and districts.
West Virginia (Republican trifecta)
- WV SB631: Updating administration, funding, and requirements for federal elections held in WV
Oklahoma (Republican trifecta)
- OK HB1950: Elections; voter registration of deceased persons; requiring death records from Social Security Administration; authorizing Secretary to obtain records from other states; effective date.
- OK SB410: Elections; modifying prohibited activities at polling place or voting site. Emergency.
- OK SB481: Security of election officials; prohibiting certain actions towards election officials. Effective date. Emergency.
Bills that passed both chambers
Thirty-eight bills have passed both chambers (but have not yet been enacted) in 2023, the same as had passed both chambers at this point in 2022. To see all bills that have currently passed both chambers, click here.
Active bills that passed both chambers since April 28, with their official titles, are below.
Alabama (Republican trifecta)
- AL SB10: Relating to electronic vote counting systems; to amend Section 17-7-21, Code of Alabama 1975, to prohibit the use of electronic vote counting systems that are capable of connection to the Internet or cell phone networks or that possess modem technology.
- AL SB9: Relating to voting; to amend Section 17-7-23, Code of Alabama 1975, to require any approved electronic vote counting system used in an election to require the use of paper ballots; and to make nonsubstantive, technical revisions to update the existing code language to current style.
Florida (Republican trifecta)
- FL S7050: Elections
Indiana (Republican trifecta)
- IN HB1336: Various election law matters.
Georgia (Republican trifecta)
- GA SB222: Primaries and Elections; all costs and expenses relating to election administration are paid for with lawfully appropriate public funds; provide
Montana (Republican trifecta)
- MT SB254: Generally revise election laws
- MT SB123: Require ballot for bond election to estimate additional taxes for residence
- MT HB947: Revise election laws
South Carolina (Republican trifecta)
- SC H4099: Lancaster County Precincts
Tennessee (Republican trifecta)
- TN HB0817: AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 2 and Title 6, relative to local elections.
- TN HB0772: AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 2, relative to elections.
- TN SB0978: AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 2, relative to polling places.
Texas (Republican trifecta)
- TX SB1052: Relating to the compensation of an election judge or clerk.
Two-hundred and eight bills have been defeated in committee or by a floor vote in 2023. These bills represent 118.2% of the 176 bills that were defeated at this point in 2022. To see all bills that have been defeated in 2023, click here.
Eleven bills have been defeated since April 28.
Recent activity by topic and sponsorship
The chart below shows the topics of the bills state legislatures acted on since April 28. Click here to see a full list of bill categories and their definitions.
* Note: Contest-specific procedures refers to primary systems, municipal election procedures, recall elections, special election procedures, and other systems unique to a particular election type.
All 2023 bills by topic and sponsorship
The chart below shows the topics of a sample of the 2,446 bills we have tracked this year. Note that the sums of the numbers listed do not equal the total number of bills because some bills deal with multiple topics.
Enacted bills by topic and sponsorship, 2022 vs. 2023
Recent activity by state and trifecta status
Thirty (21.4%) of the 140 bills with activity this week are in Democratic trifecta states, 96 (68.6%) are in Republican trifecta states, and 14 (10%) are in states with divided governments.
Of the 79 bills with activity during this week in 2022, 32 (40.5%) were from states with Democratic trifectas, 22 (27.9%) were from states with Republican trifectas, and 25 (31.7%) were from states with divided governments.
The map below shows election-related bills acted on in the past week by state trifecta status.
All 2023 bills by state and trifecta status
Of the total bills introduced in 2023, 1,049 (42.8%) are in states with Democratic trifectas, 1,110 (45.2%) are in states with Republican trifectas, and 294 (12%) are in states with divided governments.
Texas legislators have introduced the most election-related bills this year. Texas holds legislative sessions in odd years only, and so had no activity in 2022. New York was the most active state at this point in 2022. South Dakota has enacted the most bills this year. In 2022, New York and California had enacted the most bills at this point.
The map below shows the number of election-related bills introduced by state in 2023 by state trifecta status.
Florida Legislature approves election bill that eliminates resign to run provision
On April 28, Florida S7050 passed the state House 76-34, clearing both chambers of the state legislature. The Florida Senate passed the bill 28-12 on April 26. The Republican-sponsored bill makes a number of changes to the state’s election laws, including:
- Creates an exception to the state’s resign-to-run law for any individual seeking the office of President or Vice President of the United States, and exempts these candidates from requirement related to the submission of certain documents, financial interest disclosures, petition signatures, and payment of filing fees.
- Makes signature matching mandatory, requires anyone conducting signature matching to undergo training
- Requires first-time registrants without certain identification to vote in-person the first time they cast a ballot
- Increases fines for violation of voter registration and campaign finance law violations
- Requires third-party voter registration organizations to re-register with the state every election cycle, changes the deadline for application delivery from 14 to 10 days, increases fines for late delivery, and requires the organization to give applicants receipts
- Allows special election or referendum notices to be published on local government websites instead of in newspapers
- Outlines penalties and prohibitions for harassment of election workers, including related definitions.
Sen. Danny Burgess (R) said, “This bill does not and will not hinder anyone’s right to vote, nor would I ever subscribe my name to something that could even remotely be concluded to be voter suppression. There is nothing in this bill that makes it harder for a lawfully registered voter to cast their ballot.”
Sen. Geraldine Thompson (D) said, “This really is suppression. It is suppression, just like poll taxes. That was suppression. Just like violence against people who wanted to vote was suppression. Just like intimidation when you had the Ku Klux Klan march through certain communities was suppression. So I see different characters but the same objective, and that’s to make sure that only certain people vote.”
Election litigation fundraising up from previous election cycles
According to Federal Election Commission (FEC) data released earlier this year, election litigation fundraising in the 2021-2022 election cycle increased by nearly 30% compared to the 2019-2020 cycle. From the beginning of 2019 to the end of 2020, major national party organizations received approximately $117 million in contributions for legal expenses. In the same 24-month period from 2021 to 2022, these organizations raised approximately $154 million. These funds supported post-election lawsuits, cases related to election administration changes during the coronavirus outbreak, and other election-related litigation. While fundraising has increased, the average number of election-related cases per year has decreased. According to a study from UCLA Law School Prof. Rick Hansen, there was “a steep drop in the rate of election litigation, with litigation averaging 257.5 cases per year in the 2021-22 midterm election period, down almost 19 percent compared to a 339-per-year case average during the last midterm period of 2017-18.”
Eleventh Circuit overturns ruling finding racial discrimination in Florida election law provisions
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s decision on April 27, 2023, involving four recently enacted provisions of Florida SB90, a package of election law changes that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed into law on May 6, 2021. The League of Women Voters of Florida sued the state, alleging that key provisions of the law were intentionally discriminatory against minority communities. Judge William Pryor, appointed by President George W. Bush (R), wrote in the majority opinion that the “findings of intentional racial discrimination rest on both legal errors and clearly erroneous findings of fact…”. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida struck down these provisions on March 31, 2022, and ordered the state to submit to federal preclearance for all election law changes for the next ten years. Judge Mark E. Walker, appointed by President Barack Obama (D), wrote that the SB90 provisions would disproportionately affect minority voters in violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and the Voting Rights Act. After this reversal, the following SB90 provisions will be enforced:
- Voters requesting mail-in ballots (in person, in writing, or by telephone) must provide either their Florida identification card numbers or the last four digits of their Social Security numbers. In addition, mail-in ballot request forms will be effective for one election cycle instead of two.
- Drop box locations anywhere other than the office of the county supervisor must only be open during early voting hours, and employees of the supervisor’s office must secure and monitor these drop boxes.
- Third-party voter registration organizations must deliver all collected applications to the division or supervisor of elections in the counties where the applicants reside within 14 days. Applications can no longer be submitted to any supervisor of elections.
- Any activities with the intent or effect of influencing a voter are barred within 150 feet of a drop box or the entrance to a polling place.