December 18, 2014 · 26 Kislev

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State Level Activity

Since the November election, more than 1,500 bills related to election changes have been introduced in all 50 states combined, the National Conference of State Legislators said. More than 130 have been signed into law, and more than 1,000 are pending in 35 states. This is not surprising since election administration clearly falls under the purview of the state and county governments. In some cases, states and localities have held back on passing election reform measures as they wait for federal assistance, which may or may not be coming this year.

In Georgia, Governor Roy Barnes has signed legislation to place touch-screen voting systems in all precincts. In Maryland, the Legislature passed a bill requiring the state and counties to split the costs of a new system.

In Florida, Governor Jeb Bush recently signed into law an election reform package. The bill eliminates punch card systems and the infamous "butterfly ballot"; provides for mandatory manual recounts in close elections; codifies standards for determining voter "intent"; allocates $6 million for a voter education initiative and $2 million to create a central voter database; and provides for the use of provisional ballots. A measure to restore voting rights to ex-felons was left out during last minute negotiations.

Virginia Governor James Gilmore signed six election reform bills into law in March. The state will have new standards for conducting recounts and clarifying how many hanging punch chads qualify for a vote. Electors in the next presidential election will be legally bound to vote for the candidate who receives the most votes statewide, and anyone who votes more than once in the same election will now be guilty of a felony. The rules will take effect on July 1, four months before Virginia voters go to the polls for statewide elections.

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