State Government Affairs, Elections & Campaigns
Last Year’s Record Turnover of State Legislators Continues in 2024
January 12, 2024 | Bill Kramer
Issues over voting have been pushed to the forefront following several close elections in the last few cycles. Democrats have sought to increase access to voting while Republicans have tried to implement measures they say would increase election security. Voters will decide on several ballot measures this November that could impact how future elections are conducted.
Voter ID has been a contentious issue in many states with Republicans arguing for identification requirements to prevent voter fraud, while Democrats have argued fraud is rare and that identification requirements make it harder to vote, particularly for the elderly and poor. Currently 34 states require identification for in-person voting, although 22 of those states allow a voter to cast a ballot without an ID if the voter signs an attestation and the signature matches the one on the voter’s file.
Arizona requires government-issued photo identification for in-person voting, but if a voter lacks such identification, he or she can still provide two other forms of identification that establish name and address. If Proposition 309 is approved, a voter would only be able to submit a ballot if he or she can provide government-issued photo identification, either from the state, the federal government, or a tribal government. If the address on the identification does not match the voter registration file or the identification does not list an address, another document listing the voter’s address would need to be provided. The measure would also require that the identification be current, meaning voters with expired identification will not be allowed to vote.
The measure would also add requirements for voters applying for an early ballot. On the affidavit that voters return with their early ballot, the voter would have to submit their date of birth and voter identification number — their driver’s license or government-issued identification number or the last four digits of their social security number. Finally, the measure would waive the $12 fee for a non-operating identification license to a person who attests that the license was applied for in order to comply with voter identification requirements.
Nebraska is one of sixteen states that does not require identification to vote, but that could change if voters approve Initiative 432. If approved, the measure would amend the state constitution to require voters to provide photo identification before casting a ballot. State lawmakers would have to pass legislation to specify what kind of identification would be accepted. The measure was advocated for by a petition drive by Citizens for Voter ID and has been endorsed by Governor Pete Ricketts (R).
Long voting lines on election day have prompted some reformers to push for more early voting. Earlier this year, Missouri passed a sweeping new voting bill that allowed no-excuse absentee voting, leaving just four states left that do not allow any early in-person voting. Some states only permit early voting for certain absentee voters who list a reason, others allow any voter to cast a ballot before election day.
Connecticut is one of the four states that does not allow any early in-person voting, but that could change if voters approve a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November. The measure would authorize the general assembly to enact early voting legislation permitting in-person voting before election day for any office or question to be voted on.
Voters narrowly rejected an early voting ballot measure in 2014.
Four years ago, Michigan voters approved a measure that expanded access to voting, including allowing no-excuse absentee voting. This year, voters will decide whether to continue expanding access with Proposal 2. The measure would require nine days of early in-person voting, eight hours each day for a workweek plus two weekends until the Sunday before Election Day. Proposition 2 would also require state-funded absentee-ballot drop boxes, and postage for absentee applications and ballot. Voters could also apply for permanent absentee voter status through a single application. Military and overseas absentee ballots would be required to be counted if postmarked by election day and received within six days after the election.
The proposal also enshrines in the state constitution the right to vote in person without identification through a signed affidavit. It would also recognize a fundamental right to vote without harassing conduct and allow private donations to fund election-related activities so long as public disclosures are made. Audits would be required to be public with political party officers prohibited from having a role. Finally, the measure provides that the Board of State Canvassers is the only entity authorized to certify election results, based only on the record of votes cast.
The COVID-19 pandemic required legislatures and election officials to implement emergency changes to election laws to accommodate social distancing. Many Republicans argued the changes did not follow proper channels and that they opened elections up to fraud. Alabama Statewide Amendment 4 would require any changes to election procedures passed by the legislature to be implemented at least six months prior to a general election.
Ranked-choice voting has begun to gain traction in some circles, with Alaska and Maine using it for some elections. Under ranked-choice voting, if no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the second preference for that candidate’s voters is allocated those votes. The process continues until a candidate reaches a majority of the vote.
Nevada State Question 3 would implement top-five primary elections and ranked-choice voting for general elections. Primaries would be open, regardless of party, and would narrow the field of candidates to five. The general election would allow voters to choose from those five candidates, using ranked-choice voting. Since the ranked choice voting initiative would amend the state constitution, voters would need to approve the measure this November as well as in the 2024 election for ranked choice voting to be used in the 2026 election cycle and beyond. The proposal has drawn criticism from both establishment Republicans and Democrats, but has drawn in substantial funding from out-of-state donors.
Recently the District of Columbia Council passed legislation to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections, joining a handful of other cities that grant non-citizens the right to vote. To prevent this, Ohio has a proposal to prohibit local governments from allowing non-citizens to vote in any state or local election. Arizona and North Dakota are the only other states with constitutional amendments that prohibit non-citizens from voting.
January 12, 2024 | Bill Kramer
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