State Voting and Election Laws
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Key Takeaways:

  • Social justice advocates have recently drawn lawmakers’ attention to the lack of diversity in America’s corporate boardrooms and have lobbied for legislation that requires at least one woman or person of color to serve on a publicly traded board.
  • In 2020, California lawmakers updated its landmark 2018 law to require that at least one director on a corporate board come from an underrepresented community by the end of 2021.
  • Following California’s decision, a total of seven states — California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington — have enacted some type of board diversity measures.

Social justice advocates have recently drawn lawmakers’ attention to the lack of diversity in America’s corporate boardrooms and have lobbied for legislation that requires at least one woman or person of color to serve on a publicly-traded board. In 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed landmark legislation (CA AB 826) mandating that publicly traded corporations based in California have a specified number of female directors on their board depending on the board’s size. Two years later, California lawmakers enacted another bill (CA AB 979) to expand the original law to require that at least one director on a corporate board come from an underrepresented community (defined as someone who self-identifies as Black, African American, Latino, Asian, or Native American) by the end of 2021.

Following California’s decision, a total of seven states — California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington — have enacted some type of board diversity measures. Specifically, legislation falls into one of three broad categories: (1) mandating board diversity; (2) encouraging board diversity; or (3) requiring disclosure of board diversity information. 

Just this month, the Hawaii Senate advanced legislation (HI SB 193) that would require publicly-traded companies in the state to have a gender-diverse board of directors. Specifically, companies with boardrooms of six or more would need at least three women or nonbinary members and boards of five would need at least two women or nonbinary members on them. While supporters of the bill were encouraged by it passing the Senate, its House companion bill (HI HB 1077) failed to receive a committee hearing.

Currently, lawmakers have introduced 14 bills on boardroom diversity in seven states (Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, and New York). Unlike many previous bills that either encouraged diversity on boards or required disclosure of board information, nearly all of the bills introduced this year follow the California model to mandate diversity on corporate boards.