Connecticut secretary of the state urges Constitutional amendment allowing ‘no excuse’ absentee ballots | Kenneth R. Gosselin/Hartford Courant

After a strong turnout by absentee balloting in Tuesday’s election, Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill announced Wednesday she will propose an amendment to the state’s Constitution to allow for “no-excuse” voting by absentee ballot. “Connecticut voters have spoken, and they want options that make voting more convenient for them, just like voters across the country have,” Merrill said. “The availability of absentee ballots allowed more than 650,000 people to safely and conveniently cast their ballots and helped to drive what will ultimately be among the highest turnout elections in Connecticut history.” As of late afternoon Wednesday, the unofficial voter turnout number for Tuesday’s presidential election stood at 73%, as votes continue to be tabulated across Connecticut. Merrill has said that could climb close to 80%. The proposal drew immediate support from Connecticut’s two Congressional senators. “The success that we’ve had in Connecticut in expanding out absentee-ballot voting opportunities should cause us to once again try to fix the infirmities of our voting system in Connecticut and allow for universal mail-in voting and early in-person voting,” U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said.

Full Article: Connecticut secretary of the state urges Constitutional amendment allowing ‘no excuse’ absentee ballots – Hartford Courant

New Hampshire: State Election Officials: Any Voter Can Cast Absentee Ballot Due to COVID-19 | Casey McDermottNHPR

Any New Hampshire voter who has concerns about showing up to vote in-person due to COVID-19 will be able to request an absentee ballot in this year’s elections, according to a memo released Friday by the New Hampshire Secretary of State and Attorney General.  “Absentee voting is permitted in any circumstance where the voter is under medical advice – whether it is individualized advice or general advice to the public – to avoid being in places like a polling place,” the memo reads. While two-thirds of states allow voters to use absentee ballots without providing an excuse, New Hampshire voting laws limit absentee ballot usage to those who meet certain state-approved criteria. The move to expand absentee voting comes as election administrators across the country are scrambling to adjust plans to keep voters — and pollworkers — safe. When applying for an absentee ballot, a New Hampshire voter must indicate whether one of the following circumstances apply: they plan to be out of town on Election Day; or they can’t appear at the polls due to a religious observance, due to work or caregiving obligations, or due to illness or disability.

National: U.S. Vote Foundation Calls on Congress to Mandate a Nationwide “No Excuse” Vote-by-Mail Option Across All States for 2020 Elections

U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) today called for the United States Congress to issue a requirement that all states remove any and all barriers to vote-by-mail/absentee ballot request across all states at all levels, federal, state and municipal, for all 2020 elections including primaries, special, runoff and general elections. “Ensuring voters can vote from home is a responsible and forward-thinking policy action that Congress should include in its response to the current public health situation,” said Michael Steele, Chairman of US Vote and its Overseas Vote initiative. “It is impossible for voters to predict whether they will be healthy and able to vote in-person. They should be assured they can vote safely with an absentee vote-by-mail ballot.” US Vote’s State Voting Methods and Options shows that while 32 states allow voters to request a ballot by mail without providing a reason, or what is commonly called an excuse for not going to the polls, there remains 19 states and 5 territories that do not. These include high population states like Texas and New York.

Michigan: Voting rights proposal certified for Michigan’s November ballot | The Detroit News

State elections officials on Thursday added a third proposal to the Nov. 6 ballot that would expand voting rights in Michigan. The Board of State Canvassers voted unanimously to certify signatures for a ballot initiative that would amend the Michigan Constitution to allow for no-reason absentee voting by mail, guarantee continued straight-party voting and let residents register to vote up to and on Election Day. The approval from canvassers comes a day before the deadline for inclusion on the November ballot and roughly a week after the ballot committee Promote the Vote asked a federal judge to force state certification of the proposal.

Michigan: Voting rights group files lawsuit over ballot proposal | MLive

Kary Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan – one of the organizations backing the plan – said the lawsuit takes issue with the state’s process.

“The fear is that the process is insufficient, that it’s inconsistent with what other initiatives have received, and that it’s standard-less,” Moss said.

Promote the Vote tracked down 13 people out of the 24 signatures deemed invalid from the sample of 500 and had them sign affidavits, but that wasn’t enough to get the proposal over the necessary hurdles and onto the ballot, according to Moss.

Michigan: Group submits signatures for ballot measure to expand voting in Michigan | The Detroit Free Press

More than 430,000 signatures were submitted Monday for a 2018 ballot initiative to expand voting in Michigan by allowing absentee ballots to be cast for any reason and implementing measures such as same-day voter registration. Organizers of the Promote the Vote constitutional amendment include the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, the League of Women Voters and the NAACP’s state and Detroit branches. “Democracy is most effective when the most possible people participate,” ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary Moss said during a news conference outside the state elections bureau. “It is time that we had voting reforms in the state because people have died to win and exercise their right to vote. Voting should be easier, it should be accessible and it should be something that everybody can do.”

Indiana: Election reforms approved by Senate die in House |

Two potentially transformative election reforms approved by the Indiana Senate likely will not become law this year after failing to pass the House by Monday’s deadline for acting on Senate measures. Neither Senate Bill 250, authorizing “no excuse” absentee voting, nor Senate Bill 326, establishing standards for legislative redistricting, received formal consideration by the House Elections and Apportionment Committee. They therefore could not advance for a vote by the full House on whether to send them to the governor. It’s possible, though improbable, that the Senate still could force a House vote through the conference committee process.

Michigan: Groups propose voters rights amendment on November ballot | Michigan Radio

A petition drive hopes to put a voters’ rights amendment to the state constitution on the November ballot. The amendment would let people vote absentee without giving a reason. It would allow early voting. And it would guarantee the right to vote a party-line ticket with one mark on the ballot. “We need to make sure that voting is accessible to all citizens and that everyone’s vote gets counted,” said Judy Karendjeff with the League of Women Voters.

Indiana: State could eliminate excuse requirement for voting absentee by mail | Kokomo Perspective

Hoosiers soon may no longer need to cite a specific reason for voting by absentee ballot. On Monday, state Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, won unanimous approval from the Senate Elections Committee for his proposal allowing any registered voter to cast their ballot by mail prior to Election Day. Current law requires voters identify one of 13 excuses for voting absentee, such as being out of town on Election Day, lacking transportation to the polls or observing a religious holiday.

Indiana: Lawmakers set to propose voting by mail, same-day registration | WISH-TV

At the summer study committee on election laws, it was announced lawmakers are planning to file bills for same-day voter registration and the ability to vote by mail. While we don’t have details on these bills there were plenty of suggestions on improving voting laws. In a time where many issues can cause divide, some want election laws to be different. “Voting in elections should be among the most inclusion activities we experience as Hoosiers,” said Julia Vaughn with the organization Common Cause. “Our assumption should be that people want to participate.”

Alabama: Bill would eliminate requirement to give reason for voting absentee |

Alabama voters would not have to give a reason for voting absentee under a bill that passed the state Senate last week. Current law requires voters to sign an affidavit attached to the ballot that affirms their identity and gives one of the following reasons for voting absentee: out of town on election day; physically incapacitated; working all day while the polls are open; attending college in another county; being an armed services member or the spouse or dependent of one. The bill, by Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, would eliminate the requirement to give a reason and the requirement to have two witnesses or a notary public sign the identifying affidavit.

Mississippi: Analysis: Early voting could make you a liar in Mississippi | Associated Press

Mississippi lawmakers this year rejected a proposal to stop making liars of their fellow citizens, at least when it comes to early voting. Current state law allows any registered voter who is disabled or at least 65 years old to cast an absentee ballot before election day. Anyone else needs an excuse, such as being out of town on election day, to vote early by absentee. A bipartisan study group led by Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann met in 2015 and recommended several election law revisions for legislators to consider this year. The group unanimously backed the concept of allowing voters to cast ballots in circuit clerks’ offices starting 21 days before any election, without having to give a reason. During a news conference at the beginning of the legislative session in January, Hosemann said about 9,000 people cast absentee ballots in Mississippi statewide elections. He said about one-third request mail-in ballots, while two-thirds go to a circuit clerk’s office to vote absentee. Almost half of the people going to clerks’ offices say they’re planning to be out of the county on election day.

Voting Blogs: The Will of the People: Michigan’s Ballot Initiative to Allow By-Mail Voting | State of Elections

Alexander Hamilton once said, “A share in the sovereignty of the state, which is exercised by the citizens at large, in voting at elections is one of the most important rights of the subject, and in a republic ought to stand foremost in the estimation of the law.” In Michigan, the citizens have incredible power to voice their opinion and influence the sovereignty of their state. Through initiative, Michiganders may propose either a constitutional amendment, which does not require state legislative approval before being placed on the ballot, or state statutes, which must first be submitted to the state legislature for approval before being placed on the ballot. In order to participate in the initiative process, Michigan does not even require that the petitioner register with the state, but rather only requires that the petitioner report campaign contributions in excess of $500. However, petitioners may submit their proposal to the Bureau of Elections in order to greatly reduce the chance that formatting errors will prevent the proposal from being accepted.

Michigan: Senate GOP faces pressure from Governor, SOS on no-reason absentee |

The Michigan Senate in December broke a pair of bills apart to avoid passing no-reason absentee voting, but now they’re facing calls to pass that bill from Gov. Rick Snyder and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. HB 4724 would allow voters to go to their local clerk’s office and either vote in person there or take an absentee ballot home without having a reason to vote absentee. Current Michigan law only allows absentee voting if a person falls into one of six categories, including being over age 60 or expecting to be out of town on election day. The bill was introduced in June, but gained traction when it was tie-barred to a bill that banned straight-ticket voting. That action would have meant that neither bill made it into law unless the other one did. However, the Senate broke that tie-bar in a late night session and the House agreed to it.

Michigan: Snyder signs bill eliminating straight-ticket voting | Detroit Free Press

Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill that will eliminate single-party, straight-ticket voting in Michigan, but urged the state Senate to also pass a bill that will allow voters to cast absentee ballots without having to provide a reason. “Michigan joins 40 other states that require voters to select an individual for each elective office, rather than simply selecting a political party,” Snyder wrote in a letter explaining why he signed the bill. “As governor, I have strived to put people before politics and strongly encourage voters to do the same.” Straight-ticket voting allows voters to fill in one box on the ballot to support all Democrats or all Republicans all the way down the ballot. Local clerks have said the option has helped speed voting lines, which tend to get quite long, especially in urban areas during presidential election years.

Missouri: Lawmakers seek voting reforms | St. Joseph News-Press

Two St. Joseph legislators have crafted proposals this session that would alter voting procedures such as those designated for absentee balloting. Rep. Pat Conway, D-St. Joseph, has written a bill that would allow any registered voter eligible to participate in a particular election to do so by absentee ballot without being required to state a reason. Under Mr. Conway’s plan, an application for an absentee ballot instead would need to state whether the voter is incapacitated or confined due to illness or physical disability. People who are primarily responsible for the physical care of an incapacitated or confined person also would fall under the definition.

Michigan: Democrats Renew Push for No Excuse Absentee Voting | WMUK

Democratic state lawmakers are again hoping to allow no-reason absentee voting in Michigan. Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has said recently that more people who have died or moved out of state must be removed from the state’s voter registration database before lawmakers will agree to stop putting conditions on who can vote absentee. The state Bureau of Elections says significant progress has been made to clean up Michigan’s voter files. “We are (removing people from the files) much more quickly than we did before and probably more thoroughly than we did before,”

Connecticut: Voters to vote on expanding voting | GreenwichTime

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will sign legislation to give Connecticut voters the chance to expand the use of absentee ballots. The bill, which passed the Senate late Wednesday and heads to his desk, will create a ballot question for next year’s statewide election, asking voters whether they want to change the state Constitution and allow the General Assembly to expand early voting opportunities. One of the measures planned by lawmakers is so-called no-excuse absentee ballots. Illness, age and out-of-town business are the main reasons for issuing absentee ballots, in provisions that date back 80 years.

Minnesota: Ritchie Discusses Proposed Voting Legislation | KEYC

Proposed legislation in St. Paul could change how you vote. Proposed legislation going through the state talks about expanding voting options in the hopes of making the process more flexible. “Last year of course we had the state’s largest election ever.  We were again first in the nation, it was very great, very smooth election, but also lots of ideas came forth and so people met around the state, down in Mankato, everywhere, and talking about some things that can make it even better and also cut some of the costs,” says Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. The ‘No Excuse Absentee Balloting’ bill proposes that Minnesotans could cast an absentee ballot without providing one of the five excuses currently allowed.  Those reasons are: absence from your precinct, illness or disability, serving as an election judge in another precinct, religious discipline or observance of religious holiday, and any emergency declared by the governor or quarantine declared by the federal or state government.

Virginia: Democrats Accuse GOP of Restricting Voting Rights | Potomac Local News

Democratic lawmakers blasted Republicans’ recent actions to redraw Senate districts and require voters to show more identification during a roundtable meeting with the League of Women Voters of Virginia this past week. Several of the league’s guest speakers accused the GOP of gerrymandering political districts and trying to restrict voters’ rights. The General Assembly should be making it easier, not harder, to vote, Democratic legislators told about 30 league members Wednesday. Sen. Ralph Northam, D-Painter, said the turnout for the 2012 presidential election was excellent: About 72 percent of Virginia voters cast ballots in November. But some people across the state were discouraged from voting because they had to wait in line for hours at the polls, Northam said. “Good democracy occurs when everybody has a voice,” he said. Northam said that’s why legislators this year filed bills such as “no-excuse early voting” legislation.

Minnesota: First election-change bill would offer ‘no-excuse’ absentee voting | MinnPost

The raft of DFL-backed elections changes expected this session started trickling in Thursday as Rep. Steve Simon moved forward with a bill that would allow voters to cast an absentee ballot for any reason. Current state law requires people who vote by absentee to have an excuse for why they can’t show up at their polling place in person on Election Day. Simon’s bill would remove that provision and also permit voters to apply for ongoing or permanent absentee status, which would require the state to mail them an absentee ballot before each election. The measure marks a move toward some form of expanded early-voting procedures, which are currently employed by 32 states. Simon said Minnesota’s law is difficult to enforce right now.

Michigan: Clerk: No-reason absentee voting to become reality with governor’s support | Source Newspapers

After hearing Gov. Rick Snyder call on the Michigan Legislature to address the issue during his State of the State Address, Shelby Township Clerk Stanley Grot says he remains confident that it is “just a matter of time” until no-reason absentee voting becomes a reality. “Approximately two months ago, I called on Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and the Michigan Legislature to implement no-reason absentee voting in the state of Michigan,” Grot said in a statement. “Since then, I have spoken with Johnson, Macomb County Clerk Carmella Sabaugh, State Rep. Peter Lund and the office of Gov. Snyder. I have found that to some degree, everyone I spoke to believes no-reason absentee voting is common-sense government reform and should be implemented promptly.”

Michigan: No-excuse absentee voting proposal comes with a catch | Michigan Messenger

Michigan residents could vote via absentee ballots for any reason under election reforms proposed by Republicans last week, but because the package requires voters to pick up their ballots in person, the change might not make it much easier for some people to vote.

Under the current rules a voter can only get an absentee ballot if they certify that they are 60 or older, expect to be away while polls are open, are physically unable to get to the polls, in jail awaiting arraignment or trial, can’t attend for religious reasons, or will be working as a election official in another precinct. People who vote absentee for these reasons can order their ballots by mail or online. About a quarter of all votes in the last two general elections were cast on absentee ballots, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Connecticut: Voting laws up for change to allow early voting and no excuse absentee | Yale Daily News

The secretary of the state is pushing for a constitutional amendment to open the floor for voting law reforms that will allow early voting and absentee voting in any situation.

As part of a broad initiative to modernize Connecticut’s voting system that started in February, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill is pushing for a constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to change the absentee voting rules or enact early voting.

Currently, the Connecticut state constitution allows absentee voting in only six very specific cases, such as physical incapability to travel to the polls or a religious prohibition on voting in person, and bans early voting. Both Republican and Democratic state legislative leaders have expressed support for the amendment, but are divided on whether early voting or absentee voting is a better reform to pursue after the constitution is changed.

National: Congresswoman Susan Davis Introduces Bill to End Abesentee Ballot Restrictions | East County Magazine

Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) has introduced legislation, the Universal Right to Vote by Mail Act (H.R. 2084), that would end restrictions many states impose on a person’s ability to vote by absentee ballot.

Currently, 21 states restrict an eligible voter’s ability to vote by mail, also known as absentee.  The other states offer no-excuse absentee voting.  Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) re-introduced her bill to end such restrictions and allow all eligible voters nationwide to vote by mail for any reason in federal elections.