Redistricting

New Mexico: Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed a bill that the New Mexico’s Democratic-controlled legislature had passed almost unanimously to create a bipartisan advisory redistricting commission. The brand new fee will suggest maps for lawmakers to contemplate when devising new districts for Congress, the state legislature, the state Public Regulation Fee, and the state Public Training Fee.

Campaign Action

The law will set up a board with seven members, with 4 chosen by the management of each events in every of the state’s two legislative chambers; two unaffiliated members chosen by the state Ethics Fee; and a last seventh member named by the Ethics Fee who will likely be a retired appellate decide and can function fee chair. Not more than three commissioners may be members of the identical get together, and anybody who’s or has served as an officeholder, candidate, or lobbyist (or whose shut relations have) within the two years previous to redistricting can’t take part.

Commissioners will devise three proposals for every sort of workplace and maintain public hearings to debate them. The standards, so as of precedence, would require that districts have to be drawn to:

  • Have equal inhabitants as carefully as potential for Congress and not more than a 2% deviation for state legislature;
  • Cut up no precincts;
  • Adhere to the federal Voting Rights Act and its protections for voters of colour;
  • Elect just one member every;
  • Be “moderately compact;” and
  • Protect communities of curiosity, native authorities jurisdictions, and Native American communities “to the extent possible.”

Mapmakers may additionally think about preserving the cores of current districts however can’t use partisan information besides to adjust to federal voting rights protections, which is able to forestall them from drawing maps with partisan equity explicitly in thoughts. Commissioners ostensibly can’t think about incumbents’ residences, however an exception that permits them to keep away from pairing incumbents in the identical districts makes that restriction comparatively simple to avoid. The legislation additionally lets the board use various “credible” inhabitants information sources along with the census.

Nonetheless, the fee would not even have the facility to enact proposed maps into legislation. As a substitute, it might solely suggest maps for lawmakers to contemplate, however legislators can nonetheless amend the proposals or reject them solely and draw their very own maps from scratch. The legislation says nothing about imposing the identical standards on maps drawn by the legislature that it does on the fee, leaving the door open for Democrats to attract gerrymanders, although the chance of sparking a backlash by rejecting the fee’s maps might deter Democrats from doing so.

Oklahoma: With the census’ delayed launch of redistricting information threatening to make it not possible for lawmakers in lots of states to fulfill constitutionally mandated deadlines, Republican legislators in Oklahoma have approved the use of estimates from the census’ American Group Survey to attract legislative districts forward of a Might 28 cutoff. If lawmakers fail to go new legislative maps by then, Republican legislative leaders and the governor would have to appoint a backup commission with a good variety of members of each events to take over the method, which might threat forfeiting their energy to gerrymander.

Nonetheless, voting rights advocates have argued that ACS estimates are usually not exact sufficient to go authorized muster as a result of they threat undermining illustration of communities of colour, threatening to sue if any state makes use of such estimates in lieu of the decennial census rely.

Oregon: Oregon’s Supreme Courtroom has unanimously granted a request from a bipartisan group of legislative leaders to increase the state’s July 1 deadline for drawing new legislative districts to Sept. 27. Lawmakers will not obtain the census information wanted to attract new districts till August due to delays, which might have made the unique deadline not possible to fulfill. In the event that they nonetheless fail to go new maps by the deadline, Democratic Secretary of State Shemia Fagan would take over the mapmaking course of.

Texas: State Senate Republicans are no longer considering a bill that will gerrymander Texas’ appellate court docket districts, shortly after advancing it in a committee final week. Nonetheless, the bill might be revived in a future legislative session resembling a particular session on redistricting that’s prone to happen later this yr.

Texas’ intermediate appellate court docket is currently divided into 14 partially overlapping districts, however this invoice would cut back that quantity to seven districts drawn by Republican lawmakers. Underneath the GOP’s proposed map, Democrats possible would have gained just two of the seven districts over the previous couple of elections, wiping out the historic positive factors that Black girls made in 2018 in main city areas resembling Houston. These Democratic judges in Houston and different cities like El Paso, lots of whom are additionally individuals of colour, can be at robust threat of shedding to white Republicans if these districts had been to grow to be legislation.

This invoice is a part of a rising pattern of Republicans turning to excessive steps resembling court-packing and gerrymandering to increase their energy over state courts. Along with successful efforts to pack state supreme courts by including seats in 2016 in Arizona and Georgia and an unsuccessful 2018 attempt to do so in North Carolina, Republicans simply this yr are additionally attempting to go payments to gerrymander court docket districts in Montana and Pennsylvania.

Voting Entry Expansions

Colorado: State Senate Democrats have passed a bill in a committee to let individuals with disabilities vote on-line as a method to shield their proper to vote a secret poll. Whereas the bill is meant to guard voting entry, safety specialists have widely warned that internet-based voting is inherently insecure beneath any current expertise.

Connecticut: Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont has signed an executive order permitting voters to proceed citing the pandemic to fulfill the state’s excuse requirement for voting absentee via Might 20 for upcoming native elections. Democrats within the legislature are at the moment also trying to pass a constitutional amendment to completely finish the excuse requirement, however amending the structure is a multi-year course of that possible will not conclude till the 2024 elections even when Democrats succeed.

Hawaii: A second committee in Hawaii’s Democratic-run state Home has unanimously handed two payments to develop voting entry. The primary would establish automatic voter registration via Hawaii’s driver’s licensing company. The second would expand the number of in-person vote centers, the place any voter in a county might forged their poll. It could additionally require that folks on parole and probation be given voting info, together with a notification that they’ve regained their voting rights upon launch from jail. Each payments have already handed the state Senate.

Illinois: Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed a bill handed by legislative Democrats to completely undertake a few of the voting entry measures that had been quickly carried out final yr as a result of pandemic, together with provisions completely permitting absentee poll drop packing containers and curbside voting.

Kentucky: Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has signed a compromise election reform invoice that Kentucky’s Republican-run legislature had handed nearly unanimously to implement a number of main modifications to voting. The new law will:

  • Set up three days of in-person early voting;
  • Authorize counties to arrange “vote facilities” the place any voter within the county might forged their poll as a substitute of simply at conventional native polling locations;
  • Permit absentee poll drop packing containers;
  • Notify voters about and allow them to repair issues with their absentee poll signatures;
  • Permit voters to request absentee ballots on-line;
  • Require routine audits of election outcomes;
  • Mandate that new voting machines produce a paper path report; and
  • Ban voters from gathering and submitting an absentee poll on behalf of one other voter, with restricted exceptions for relations, election officers, and postal staff.

Kentucky has lengthy been one of many worst states for voting entry and till now each did not permit early voting and required an excuse to vote absentee. This new legislation is a significant step in the best path, and whereas Kentucky will nonetheless lag the main states in ease of entry, this thus far is the one case of a Republican legislature taking vital steps after the 2020 elections to make it simpler to vote relatively than more durable.

Maine: Democrats, who maintain full management over state authorities, are considering a bill that would establish online voter registration starting in 2023. The invoice has the backing of state Home Speaker Ryan Fecteau and different distinguished Democratic lawmakers. Maine is one of just nine states that requires voter registration however doesn’t but permit on-line registration.

Maryland: Maryland’s Democratic-run legislature has handed two payments that purpose to develop voting entry. The payments now go to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who would not seem to have taken a place on them, however Democrats might override any vetoes.

The first bill would strengthen voting access on college campuses, navy bases, retirement properties, and different “giant residential communities.” Websites like these would be capable of request an in-person voting location, and faculties can be required to ascertain voter registration efforts on campus and provides college students an excused absence to vote if wanted. The invoice would additionally let navy service members register on-line utilizing their identification sensible playing cards issued by the Protection Division. The second bill would create a everlasting record for mechanically mailing absentee ballots in all future elections to voters who decide in.

In the meantime, Senate Democrats have passed a bill that will completely develop absentee poll drop packing containers, undertake an improved system for letting voters monitor the standing of their absentee ballots, and require a course of for notifying voters and letting them repair purported issues with these mail-in ballots. The 2 chambers should agree on a single model of the laws after state Home Democrats previously passed a different version.

Lastly, Democrats have passed a bill in a state Senate committee that will require absentee poll drop packing containers inside prisons for voters who nonetheless stay eligible and in addition require officers to provide voter registration varieties to individuals upon launch from jail. Home Democrats previously passed the bill final month.

Massachusetts: The Massachusetts chapter of Widespread Trigger, a nonpartisan group that promotes election reforms, reports that a majority in each chambers of Massachusetts’ Democratic-run legislature are actually cosponsoring a voting reform bill that will undertake same-day registration together with expanded early voting and excuse-free mail voting. The invoice would additionally require that incarcerated individuals who have not been disadvantaged of their proper to vote, resembling these convicted of a misdemeanor or who’re awaiting trial, be supplied with mail poll functions.

Nevada: Democratic legislators within the Meeting held committee hearings on Tuesday on a invoice that would expand Nevada’s existing automatic voter registration law. At the moment, the legislation covers voters who work together with the state’s driver’s licensing company; beneath this new proposal, it might additionally apply to voters who do enterprise with different state companies such because the state’s Medicaid program, which might assist attain voters who do not drive.

Democrats are also considering a second bill that will set up a straight-ticket voting possibility, which permits voters to examine a single field to vote for all candidates on the poll affiliated with a single get together with out having to mark each race. If the voter additionally checks the field for a selected candidate from the alternative get together, that vote would supersede the straight-ticket vote in that occasion. The straight-ticket possibility has been essential in different states for preventing long voting lines in communities of color by decreasing the time wanted to fill out a poll.

The identical invoice would additionally double the signature necessities for third events in search of to get onto the poll and require the governor to pick a same-party alternative appointee for any future U.S. Senate vacancies. Many states together with Nevada already require same-party appointees for legislative vacancies, and Republican lawmakers recently had Kentucky join the list of states that impose an analogous requirement for the Senate. Such necessities assist be sure that the desire of voters within the final election stays revered.

New Mexico: Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed a bill that New Mexico’s Democratic-run legislature nearly unanimously handed to develop voting entry for Native Individuals, which incorporates amongst different provisions a requirement that each reservation or different Native neighborhood have an in-person polling place.

Oregon: Oregon Democrats in a state Senate committee have passed a bill along party lines that will solely abolish felony voter disenfranchisement by restoring voting rights to at the moment incarcerated individuals. If Democrats in each legislative chambers and Gov. Kate Brown approve the bill, Oregon would become just the fourth jurisdiction within the nation that does not disenfranchise anybody for a felony conviction. The Sentencing Mission estimates that roughly 16,000 people would regain their voting rights because of this.

Rhode Island: Democratic Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and a number of other Democratic lawmakers are supporting a bill under consideration that will develop early voting availability; remove the requirement that mail voters have two witnesses or a notary signal their poll envelope; allow voters to request mail ballots electronically; create an inventory to completely mail a poll in all future elections to voters who decide in; and finish the excuse requirement for voting by mail (at the moment any excuse will suffice, however a voter should nonetheless current one).

Washington: Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a bill that ends the disenfranchisement of voters with felony convictions who’re on parole or owe court docket fines or charges after having totally served their sentences, leaving solely those that are at the moment incarcerated unable to vote.

The new law’s passage marks two historic milestones. It was successfully championed by Democratic state Rep. Tarra Simmons, who turned the primary previously incarcerated lawmaker in state historical past after her election final yr. As well as, Washington’s adoption of this coverage implies that a majority of Americans now reside in states that do not disenfranchise anybody who is not in jail.

Voter Suppression

Alabama: State Senate Republicans have passed a bill in a committee that will ban curbside voting, a way that makes it simpler for voters with mobility-limiting disabilities to have the ability to vote. State Home Republicans have already passed the bill.

Arizona: Republican state legislators have passed a invoice alongside get together strains that bans native election officers from accepting non-public grant cash to assist pay for election administration prices. Republicans have superior related payments in various states after philanthropic organizations backed by rich people resembling Fb co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger donated hundreds of millions to local governments across the nation in 2020.

Arkansas: Republicans have passed a bill in a state Senate committee that will ban election officers from mailing unsolicited absentee poll functions to all voters. State Home Republicans had previously passed the same bill.

Florida: State Home Republicans in Florida have passed a new voting restriction bill in a committee however notably stripped the bill of a provision that will have banned giving meals or drinks to voters ready in line to vote, a measure that sparked nationwide outcry when it was included in a brand new voting restriction package deal that Georgia Republicans enacted last month.

Nonetheless, the Florida measure does contain other restrictions on voting resembling eliminating a coverage that permits voters to make a single request to obtain an absentee poll for all elections that happen within the subsequent two federal election cycles. As a substitute, voters will now need to make a brand new request every election cycle, although requests from 2020 for the approaching cycle would not be retroactively cancelled. Moreover, the invoice would require {that a} voter’s mail poll signature match the latest signature they’ve used as a substitute of the extra in depth historical past of their signature.

Whereas the Home invoice would not outright ban absentee poll drop packing containers just like the model approved in a Senate committee would, it might restrict drop packing containers solely to energetic early voting places and county election places of work throughout their hours of operation. That is a departure from present legislation, which permits drop packing containers at any location that might function an early voting website even when it is not really used for early voting. The invoice would additionally require individuals dropping off ballots at drop packing containers to point out ID proving that they reside on the identical tackle because the voter or are a relative, banning different events resembling a trusted good friend or neighbor from returning one other voter’s poll on their behalf.

Georgia: U.S. District Choose Steve Jones has thrown out much of a lawsuit that Democrat Stacey Abrams’ Honest Struggle group filed in the wake of the 2018 election that was tainted by Republican voter suppression efforts and had sought to require modifications to Georgia’s voting techniques. Jones’ ruling dismissed claims that the state offered too few voting machines and insufficient ballot employee coaching, in addition to people who had challenged Georgia’s system for cancelling voter registrations and rejecting absentee ballots.

Jones did, nevertheless, permit challenges to Georgia’s “precise match” system for voter registrations, the accuracy of its voter registration record, and its coverage on absentee poll cancellations to proceed. The primary of those relates to a 2018 law Georgia Republicans adopted that places voter registration functions on maintain if even a single letter, character, or image within the info the voter offers doesn’t completely match information from state and federal databases, which regularly include inaccuracies. That draconian coverage led to the suspension of 53,000 registrations, 90% of which had been from voters of colour. The affected voters had been solely in a position to vote in 2018 due to earlier litigation.

There was no reporting on whether plaintiffs are contemplating an attraction of the dismissed claims, and the case is about to proceed to trial.

In the meantime, voting advocates have filed a fifth federal lawsuit towards the brand new voting restriction legislation that Republicans enacted last month, including to the four others that had already been filed. This latest lawsuit particularly challenges the restrictions that make it almost not possible for third-party teams to ship unsolicited absentee poll functions to voters.

The GOP’s new legislation additionally comprises a provision banning people aside from election staff from distributing foods and drinks to voters ready in line to vote. The prosecutor liable for dealing with misdemeanors in Atlanta’s populous suburb of Gwinnett County, nevertheless, announced that he won’t prosecute anyone for distributing meals or drink beneath the legislation, arguing that it is unconstitutional.

Idaho: Republican state senators have passed a bill in a committee that will make it a criminal offense to show in one other voter’s mail poll on their behalf, with restricted exceptions resembling for relations. State Home Republicans had previously passed the bill, which targets a voting observe that has been useful for making certain that folks with restricted entry to transportation or mail service can nonetheless forged their mail ballots and has not been related to any situations of fraud in Idaho.

Indiana: State Home Republicans have passed a bill in committee to require voter ID for absentee poll requests, following the invoice’s earlier passage in the GOP-run state Senate. Nonetheless, Home Republicans did take away a Senate-approved provision from the bill that will have stripped Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and the state Election Fee of their energy to institute emergency modifications to election procedures or dates after they used these powers to quickly develop voting entry throughout the pandemic final yr.

New Hampshire: Though a committee in New Hampshire’s Republican-run state Home had put on hold a number of proposals to limit voting earlier this yr, it is still considering a invoice accredited by state Senate Republicans final month that will set up a voter ID requirement for absentee poll functions. Voters must current ID to native officers when choosing up their poll, or ship a photocopy of their ID or embody an ID quantity with their absentee poll functions.

South Carolina: Republicans have introduced a invoice that will prolong South Carolina’s current voter ID requirement for in-person voting to cowl absentee voting as nicely. Republicans representing a majority of the state Home are already cosponsoring the bill, indicating that it’s prone to go.

Texas: Republicans in a state Home committee have passed a bill that will make it a felony for election officers to ship unsolicited absentee poll functions to voters. Final yr, Democratic officers in a number of city counties did so as a result of pandemic, or tried to earlier than Republican officers blocked them from doing so. The bill would additionally require those that present help to voters to assist them to forged their ballots to reveal the explanation why the voter wanted assist, which voting advocates argue might be intimidating.

Wyoming: Republican Gov. Mark Gordon has signed a bill passed by Wyoming’s Republican legislature to undertake a voter ID requirement. Wyoming had beforehand been one of many only a few pink states that lacked a voter ID legislation, however conservative Republicans gained their most dominant legislative majorities in generations in 2020.

Election Safety

Maine: A committee in Maine’s Democratic-controlled state Home has passed a bill requiring post-election audits of outcomes, a coverage that 34 different states have already adopted to advertise election integrity and bolster public confidence within the outcomes.