The state of voting: Dec. 5, 2022
This weekly update summarizing legislative activity affecting voting and elections is powered by the Voting Rights Lab. Sign up for VRL’s weekly newsletter here.
The Voting Rights Lab is tracking 2,213 bills so far this session, with 583 bills that tighten voter access or election administration and 1,061 bills that expand the rules. The rest are neutral, mixed or unclear in their impact.
Georgia is conducting its first runoff general election since a state law truncated the runoff timeline. Among stories lauding historic single-day turnout numbers are many detailing hours-long lines and the fact that thousands of mail ballots were sent too late for voters to return them by the required deadline.
Elsewhere, lawmakers in Missouri prefiled legislation to restore voting eligibility to people with past felony convictions immediately upon release from incarceration. Rhode Island’s incoming secretary of state named same-day registration legislation and the implementation of a new online mail ballot request system as his top priorities in 2023.
Looking ahead: After postponing consideration of the bill last week, an Ohio House committee may hear legislation this week that would restrict mail voting, limit secretary of state authority, and make the state’s voter ID law stricter.
Here are the details:
Georgia’s new truncated runoff period leads to long lines, delayed mail ballots. In the first runoff general election since last year’s S.B. 202 was enacted, voters across Georgia experienced hours-long lines at early voting locations, including multiple days of three-hour lines in Savannah. S.B. 202 cut the time between the November election and the runoff in half, reduced the number of required early voting days for runoff elections from 17 to five, and eliminated all required weekend days – though some counties did choose to offer the option. The new law also made it a felony to provide food and beverages to voters waiting in line.
In addition to long lines, the truncated timeline seems to have also resulted in problems with mail voting. In Cobb County, part of the Atlanta metro area, thousands of mail ballots were not sent out to voters until eight days before Election Day, which is the deadline for receipt of completed ballots by election officials. On Friday, a Cobb County Superior Court judge issued an injunction ordering the county to accept ballots received by Dec. 9, three days after runoff election day, so long as they were postmarked by the close of polls.
Ohio House committee may move a restrictive elections bill this week. Last week the Ohio House of Representatives’ Government Oversight Committee postponed consideration of a substitute to H.B. 294 that would restrict acceptable forms of voter ID, limit secretary of state authority, prohibit prepaid postage for mail ballots and remove provisions from the bill establishing automatic voter registration, among other changes. The committee is expected to hold additional hearings this week.
Prefiled legislation in Missouri would restore voting eligibility to people with past felony convictions. H.B. 248 would restore the ability to vote for people with past felony convictions upon release from incarceration. The Senate companion bill has not yet been assigned a bill number. Under current Missouri law, people with past felony convictions may not vote until they complete all relevant terms of parole and probation. If this legislation passes, Missouri will join the 23 other states where people with past felony convictions may vote immediately upon release from incarceration.
Incoming Rhode Island secretary of state cites same-day registration and online mail ballot requests as priorities. Secretary of State-elect Gregg Amore named legislation establishing same-day registration and the implementation of an online mail ballot request system, already authorized by this year’s S.B. 2007, as his top priorities.