Model Legislation

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Model Legislation

Select a bill below to read its contents and/or click button to download the text.

  1. Title

This Title shall cover provisions for absentee ballots in all elections occurring in [state].

  1. Eligibility to Vote Absentee
  1. In-person voting is the preferred method of voting within [state] and shall be utilized except as outlined in paragraph (2) of this section.
  2. Any qualified elector of this state may apply for and vote an absentee ballot if he or she makes application in writing not less than ten (10) days before Election Day [or in accordance with the U.S. Postal Service delivery standards for the state] and meets one or more of the following requirements:
  1. The voter expects to be out of the jurisdiction on Election Day and on all Early Voting Days, or
  2. The voter has a disability preventing his or her attendance at the polls.
  1. Procedure for Requesting Absentee Ballot
  1. Absentee Ballot Request Form
  1. A blank application to request an absentee ballot shall be sent to any qualified elector upon request and/or made available online, but no government official or entity shall send absentee ballot applications directly to any elector except upon the direct request of such elector, and no such application shall be prefilled with the elector’s required information.
  2. No person or entity other than the elector, a person assisting a physically disabled elector with his or her application, a common carrier charged with returning the ballot application, an election official, or a law enforcement official in the course of an investigation shall handle or return an elector’s completed absentee ballot application.
  3. The absentee ballot request form shall contain sufficient information to identify the applicant and shall include the applicant’s name, residence address, and such other information as is necessary to verify that the applicant is a registered voter.
  4. Each application shall be manually signed by the applicant and, if he or she signs by mark, shall include the signature of a witness as well as the name, address, and telephone number of such witness.
  5. No electronic signatures will be permitted for the purpose of requesting an absentee ballot.
  6. Witnesses may not sign more than one absentee ballot request form per election unless doing so for an immediate family member. Immediate family members include:
    1. Mother or father; stepmother or stepfather;
    2. Spouse, child, stepchild, sibling, or stepsibling; or
    3. Grandparent.
  7. Violation of this provision will subject the witness to a civil penalty of $____ per offense.
  1. The application may be handed by the applicant to an election official or forwarded by United States mail or by commercial carrier.
  2. Voters requesting an absentee ballot shall submit with the application a copy of one of the forms of identification listed below. An absentee ballot shall not be issued unless the required identification is submitted with the signed absentee ballot application.
  3. All acceptable forms of photo identification should clearly note whether the voter is a citizen if the ID is issued to both citizens and noncitizens. Any alternative or exception to the following forms of identification, including affidavits submitted as identification, are prohibited.
    1. A driver’s license;
    2. A state non-driver’s ID card;
    3. A current (non-expired) U.S. passport;
    4. A United States military ID;
    5. A tribal government ID;
    6. An ID issued by a state government; or
    7. A college or university ID.
  4. If an eligible voter has a state driver’s license or state non-driver’s ID card, in lieu of providing a photocopy of an ID, the applicant may provide the serial number of the driver’s license or non-driver’s ID card.
  1. For those voters who cannot afford a government-issued ID, one shall be offered free of charge through the appropriate Department of Motor Vehicles. For individuals with physical or other disabilities that prevent them from acquiring a government-issued ID, the state shall provide appropriate transportation from the individual’s place of residence to the state ID office and back or shall provide such other assistance as is necessary to ensure that such individual receives a government-issued ID.
  1. Receipt of an Absentee Ballot Request Form
  1. Upon receipt of an application for an absentee ballot, if the applicant’s name and identifying information appear on the list of qualified voters, the signature has been successfully compared to the signature on file, and the applicant has met the ID requirement, election officials shall furnish an absentee ballot to the applicant.
  2. Election officials shall maintain a list of absentee ballots provided to registered voters for each election and shall include the date the application for the absentee ballot was received. This list shall be provided to the appropriate tabulator for absentee ballots within each precinct.
  3. County election offices should scan and provide absentee mail ballots or early ballot information to state election authorities within 24 hours of request, transmission, and return of all absentee or mail ballots.
  4. The request for absentee mail ballot, transmission, or return receipt of absentee mail or early ballot information from locality or county election offices should be uploaded or transmitted to state election databases electronically and made available to political campaigns or the public for review.
  5. (The voter registration systems at the local and state level must allow for real-time reporting of absentee mail ballot requests, transmittal and receipt of ballots, or the check-in of early voters.
  1. Procedure for Voting by Absentee Ballot
  1. Absentee Ballots
  1. Absentee ballot return envelopes must attach an affidavit signed by the voter. Such affidavit must contain the signature of a witness or a notary public or other official authorized to acknowledge oaths.
    1. If a voter chooses to submit a witness signature, the printed name, address, and telephone number of the witness must be included.
    2. Witnesses shall not sign more than one absentee ballot per election, except as provided in IV(1)(c).
    3. A witness may sign the absentee ballots of multiple immediate family members as provided in III(A)(6).
  1. Together with the absentee ballot and affidavit, absentee voters must submit a copy of one valid form of identification or the serial number of a state driver’s license or non-driver’s ID. Absentee ballot return envelopes not complying with this ID requirement shall not be counted.
  2. Affidavit envelopes not signed by the voter and properly witnessed or notarized shall not be opened or counted.
  3. Each precinct shall provide a bipartisan team of election officials to assist individuals who are seeking to cast an absentee ballot from a hospital, nursing home, or other such facility or who, due to physical limitation or handicap, require assistance in returning an absentee ballot in the appropriate format.
  1. Undeliverable Absentee Ballot Request Forms and Absentee Ballots

If an absentee ballot request form or an absentee ballot sent to a registered elector is returned by the United States Postal Service as undeliverable, election officials must investigate the voter’s registration to determine the eligibility, qualifications, and validity of the voter’s registration and registration address.

  1. Permanent Absentee Lists Prohibited
  1. Under no circumstances shall election officials:
  1. maintain a permanent absentee ballot list for the purpose of automatically sending either ballot request forms or absentee ballots; and
  2. automatically mail either ballot request forms or absentee ballots to all registered voters.
  1. Each individual who plans to vote absentee must submit an absentee ballot request form for each election in which he or she wishes to vote.

[Drop boxes are not encouraged, but if a state insists on providing them, here are specific provisions for them]

  1. Drop Boxes Permitted
  1. Counties must locate absentee ballot drop boxes for electors to return absentee ballots in government buildings and advance voting locations that can be accessed only during such times as those locations are open to the public.
  2. Ballot drop boxes must:
  1. Be located in a secure government building under 24-hour security by an election official, his or her designee, a law enforcement official, or a licensed security guard;
  2. Be adequately lit;
  3. Be under constant video surveillance, a copy of which must be made available upon request within 24 hours of receipt of such request; and
  4. Not be used for any purpose other than the collection of absentee ballots.
  1. The opening slot of any drop box shall not allow ballots to be tampered with or removed and shall be designed to minimize the ability for liquid or other substances to be poured into the drop box. Each drop box must be monitored by an election official when the box is available to the public to ensure that no individual drops off more than the number of absentee ballots permitted by law.
  2. Each drop box shall be labeled “OFFICIAL ABSENTEE BALLOT DROP BOX” and shall clearly display the rules contained in the state regarding the identity of individuals who are permitted to return absentee ballots, as well as information on the penalties for destroying, defacing, or delaying delivery of ballots.
  3. All absentee ballots deposited in such drop boxes shall be collected at the conclusion of each day where voting takes place.
  1. Collection of ballots from a drop box shall be made by a team of at least two election officials.
  2. The collection team shall complete and sign a ballot transfer form upon removing the ballots from the drop box that shall include the date, time, location, number of ballots, confirmation that the drop box was locked after the removal of the ballots, and the identity of each person collecting the ballots. The collection team shall then immediately transfer the ballots to the secure location where absentee ballots returned by mail are processed and stored.
  1. At the beginning of voting at each location where a drop box is present, the election official monitoring the drop box shall confirm that the drop box is empty. If the drop box is not empty, the manager shall secure the contents of the drop box and immediately inform his or her superiors, who shall inform the state’s chief election official. Such ballots shall remain segregated from all other ballots.
  1. Receipt of Absentee Ballots
  1. Absentee ballots must be received by the time the polls close on Election Day.
  2. Upon receipt of the absentee ballot by any means permitted herein, the election authority shall record its receipt and shall store the ballot safely and securely without breaking the seal of the affidavit envelope. The absentee ballot containers in the possession of the appropriate election authority shall remain sealed until such time as counting begins.
  3. The counting of absentee ballots shall begin on the day of the election for which the absentee ballots have been submitted and only after the closing of the polls. Such counting shall continue uninterrupted until all ballots appropriately submitted have been tabulated. Should extreme or unforeseen circumstances require suspension of the vote count, the appropriate election officials shall notify the public and the state’s chief election official of the suspension, the reason for the suspension, and the exact time the vote count will resume as soon as possible.
  4. Election officials shall examine each affidavit envelope to determine:
  1. Whether the signature of the voter has been appropriately notarized or witnessed and any witness has provided a signature, printed name, address, and phone number;
  2. Whether the identification requirement has been met; and
  3. Whether the voter’s signature on the absentee ballot matches the signature in the registration files. If signature comparison software is used, it must be set to an accuracy rate of at least 95%.
  4. No poll worker or other election official shall open an affidavit envelope if the voter’s affidavit signature or mark is not properly notarized or witnessed as set forth in this chapter, and no ballot envelope or ballot therein may be removed or counted.
  5. No poll worker or other election official shall open an affidavit envelope if the envelope indicates that the ballot is unverified or the affidavit printed thereon is unsigned by the voter or unmarked, and no ballot envelope or ballot therein may be removed or counted.
  1. If all of these requirements have been complied with and the information in the affidavit establishes that the voter is entitled to vote by absentee ballot, the election officials shall then certify the findings, open each affidavit envelope, and deposit the plain envelope containing the absentee ballot into a sealed ballot box.
  1. Use of Barcodes
  1. Absentee ballots shall have a watermark on the ballot as well as a unique barcode or microchip within each absentee ballot to trigger an electronic or software notification that a ballot is being counted by a computer scanner and cannot be counted again. Such barcode or microchip shall not identify the voter who has used that absentee ballot.
  2. All envelopes used to send voters blank absentee ballots as well as the envelopes provided to voters to mail back their completed absentee ballots shall also contain a unique barcode or microchip that can be used to track the progress of such ballot envelopes through the United States Postal Service.
  1. In order to maintain the accuracy of voter rolls, a statewide voter registration list database shall be designed to communicate with other state record databases in order to allow frequent exchanges and comparisons of information. The changing of information at one agency shall result in changing the same information at all other agencies that hold such information for the voter.
  2. There shall be monthly comparisons of the statewide voter registration list with the databases maintained by
  1. The Department of Motor Vehicles,
  2. The State Department of Corrections,
  3. The State Vital Records Division, and
  4. The State Welfare and Public Assistance Agencies
  1. in order to find information relevant to registration such as address changes, deaths, felony convictions, and citizenship status.
  1. The residence address on all new voter registration forms shall be compared with county tax records to ensure that the address is confirmed as a residence and not a commercial or industrial address, an undeveloped lot, or the address of property owned by a local government, a state government, or the federal government that is not a residence.
  2. When a new registration is received, the entire voter registration list shall be checked against the information available from county tax records to verify how many individuals are registered at that residence address in order to identify any anomalies. Registrations of individuals registered at the same address but with only slight differences in their names shall be verified to ensure that they do not represent multiple registrations by the same individual.
  3. List maintenance programs shall be required and funded for ongoing, continuous, and comprehensive accuracy updates each year. Every year, reports of activity detailing the extent and timing of maintenance programs shall be provided to the state legislature’s oversight committees.
  4. At least quarterly, [state] shall use the U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address (NCOA) system to identify voters who have moved to ensure that they are not registered in more than one state. State officials shall supplement data from state vital statistics agencies on deceased registrants with information from the Social Security Death Scorecard, the Social Security Administration’s Master Death File, or independent audits of the voter registration file by commercial groups that identify deceased individuals as part of their businesses. The registration of any voter must be verified if any notice sent to such voter is returned by the U.S. Postal Service as undeliverable or if election officials receive other information showing that the voter has moved, died, or is otherwise ineligible to vote.
  5. [State] shall cooperate with other states to compare voter lists to identify individuals who are registered to vote in more than one state. Election officials must determine the current residence of each such individual in order to verify his or her eligibility to remain registered in [state].
  6. State election officials shall be authorized to contract with commercial data companies including, but not limited to, credit agencies to verify and audit information in their voter registration lists including, but not limited to, citizenship status and residence.
  7. State legislatures shall require localities to provide notice of registration of new registrants to the previous locality to allow that locality to cancel the prior registration. The voter registration form shall require registrants to identify their previous address of registration and authorize the locality to send notice of registration to the prior registration jurisdiction.
  8. Voter registration lists shall be readily accessible and transparent (without divulging confidential information such as a voter’s Social Security or driver’s license number) and be made available without charge to candidates, political parties, nonprofit organizations, and the public.
  9. A notice from [state’s] DMV that an individual has received a driver’s license from another state shall be sufficient written notice that the registered voter has changed his or her residence to the other state and to cancel the individual’s voter registration.
  10. The voter registration lists provided through electronic poll books to individual polling locations shall include photographs of the registered voter from the voter’s driver’s license, voter ID card, or any other photograph of the voter that is available in any state record.
  11. For online voter registration, such registration shall be allowed only for individuals for whom there is already an existing state record such as a driver’s license that contains all of the information required to register, including a signature.
  12. [State] and local officials shall condition requests from all federal courts for their voter registration or DMV list to use for federal juries on an agreement by the federal courts (1) to notify state and local officials if an individual called for jury duty from the list is excused from jury duty because the individual has moved, is a convicted felon, is deceased, or is not a U.S. citizen and (2) to notify state and local officials of the names and other identifying information, including residence address, of all individuals convicted of a felony in the federal court. Upon the receipt of such information, election officials must investigate to determine the eligibility of that individual to remain registered.
  13. All state court clerks shall forward to the appropriate election official in their county information on any individual called for jury duty who is excused from jury duty because the individual has moved, is a convicted felon, is deceased, or is not a U.S. citizen. Upon the receipt of such information, election officials must investigate to determine the eligibility of that individual to remain registered.

No agency, department, or employee or contractor of a state or local government shall automatically register to vote any eligible individual without first obtaining that individual’s explicit, written consent to be registered to vote and that individual’s completed state or federal voter registration form, as appropriate.

The legislature of [state] shall have legal standing to bring suit against state government officials including, but not limited to, the governor, secretary of state, or any state election official who makes or attempts to make unauthorized changes in state election laws and regulations or to waive such laws or regulations including through settlement agreements or consent decrees.

In addition, the [state] legislature shall be classified as a necessary party in any lawsuit against any state agency or department or state government officials, including, but not limited to, the governor, secretary of state, or any state election official, contesting the legality or constitutionality of any election law or regulation or involving any illegal or unauthorized changes or attempted changes to any state election law or regulation.

Any individual validly registered in [state] may file a writ of mandamus, in accordance with state law governing such writs, against any state or local official who fails to abide by or to enforce a state election law or regulatory requirement. In the case of any contested election occurring in [state], as long as said writ of mandamus is filed within 30 days of the conclusion of tabulation of such votes, it shall be considered timely filed.

  1. Title

This Title shall cover provisions for election observers during any election and at any voting or ballot-reviewing and ballot-counting location within [state].

  1. Eligibility

Political parties, candidates, and third-party organizations are each permitted to have observers at every stage of the election process in an effort to maintain the transparency that is necessary for fair and safe voting in [state]. Any individual who is a registered voter in [state] may serve as an observer in any election location in the state.

  1. Provisions
  1. Qualifications of Observers

A letter of appointment by the political party, third-party organization, or candidate serves as the written credential necessary to conduct observation at a voting or ballot-reviewing and ballot-counting location.

The observer must present the letter of appointment to the appropriate election official upon entering the voting or ballot-reviewing and ballot-counting location and be prepared to show identification if requested.

  1. Observer Access and Identification
  1. Badges: The appropriate election official shall furnish to each election observer a badge containing the words “Official Observer,” the name of the observer, and the primary or election in which such observer shall serve. The observer shall wear his or her badge at all times while he or she is serving as an observer at any voting or ballot-reviewing and ballot-counting location.
  2. Observation at a Voting Location: At each location, observers shall have complete access to all activities, save for actual observation of the votes being cast by individuals so as to maintain confidentiality of individual votes. At a minimum, observers must be provided access to the following:
  1. Opening of election offices and voting locations;
  2. Procedures for verification of voter identification;
  3. Closing of election offices and voting location;
  4. Transport of ballots from the voting location to a receiving site (using a separate vehicle); and/or
  5. Any other significant voting or processing activities at the voting location, provided that it does not interfere with or impede the election procedures or staff or compromise the secret nature of a voter’s ballot.
  1. Observation at a Ballot-Reviewing or Ballot-Counting Location: Observers must be permitted to observe each point where ballots are handled or transferred from one election official to another including, but not limited to, areas where the following activities take place:
  1. Receiving the ballots at an election office;
  2. Verifying voter registration information and signatures and inspecting and reviewing the ballots;
  3. Duplicating defective or other ballots;
  4. Adjudicating ballots including provisional ballots;
  5. Receiving electronic media or processing voting results;
  6. Tabulation of ballots; and/or
  7. Any other significant tabulation or processing activities at an election office, provided that it does not interfere with or impede the election procedures or staff except that the observation of such activities shall not be considered interference with or the impeding of election procedures.
  1. Recording Devices: Observers should also be allowed to take handwritten notes and have recording devices of any kind at each polling and ballot-reviewing or ballot-counting location to record all actions occurring there, save for completion of ballots by individual voters.
  2. Cameras: Election officials should welcome observation, and cameras should be stationed in all polling and ballot-reviewing and ballot-counting locations so that the public can watch elections and the canvassing and tabulation of ballots as these events are transpiring.
  3. Full Access: Election officials may not station observers so that they cannot fully observe in the same manner as election officials the voting process including such procedures as the opening of absentee ballots and the verification process.The failure of an election official to comply with this requirement will subject the official to sanctions, up to and including suspension and termination.
  4. Open to the Public: The testing of voting equipment shall be open to public observation. Post-election audits and recounts shall also be open to public observation.

No state, county, or local government entity, agency, or department including any employee or appointed or elected official of any state, county, or local government entity, agency, or department may solicit, receive, accept, or expend any private monies, equipment, materials, personnel, or anything else of value for purposes of conducting state, county, or local elections in [state].

All costs and expenses relating to any and all election activity conducted in [state] shall be paid for only with public funds.

  1. An elector shall not vote in an election pursuant to the laws of [state] unless the elector has been registered to vote as a resident within the boundaries or the proposed boundaries of the election district for which the election is being conducted.
  2. The registration of any individual seeking to cast a ballot in any election within [state] must be received by the [applicable state or local election official] before [a selected date] preceding the date of the next election.
  3. If the [selected date] preceding the date of the election falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or other legal holiday, voter registrations that are received on the next business day immediately following the Saturday, Sunday, or other legal holiday will be deemed to have been timely received for purposes of voting in that election.
  1. The deadline for receipt of all absentee ballots shall be the closing of polls on Election Day in order to eliminate all disputes concerning the timing of absentee ballots and potential problems with the United States Postal Service or its failure to postmark an envelope. The deadline for a request for an absentee ballot should be based on U.S. Postal Service delivery standards for [state].
  2. The counting of ballots including any absentee ballots and ballots submitted through early voting shall not begin until all of the polls in all polling locations have been closed at the end of Election Day.
  1. [Should the provision of this law subsequently be altered by appropriate legislative action and the counting of votes before Election Day be permitted, the release of voting results shall be banned until the evening of Election Day under penalty of law].
  1. The counting of ballots shall continue without pause until all votes have been tabulated. If extreme and unforeseen circumstances occur that require suspension of the vote count, election officials shall notify the public of the suspension and the exact time that it will resume.
  2. In no event shall electronic voting machines at polling locations be connected to the Internet. Likewise, any computer used in government election departments to tabulate voting results shall be a stand-alone computer that is not connected to the Internet or an online network.
  1. Only a postal or common carrier acting in his or her official capacity, a voter, a member of his or her immediate family, a designated caregiver, or a verifiable legal guardian shall be permitted to collect and deliver an absentee ballot.
  2. For purposes of this bill, an immediate family member, designated caregiver, or verifiable legal guardian shall be limited to:
  1. An individual related by blood, marriage, adoption, or legal guardianship, whether or not said individual resides at the same residence as the voter.
  2. A person who provides medical or health care assistance to the voter in a residence, nursing care institution, hospice facility, assisted living center, assisted living facility, assisted living home, residential care institution, adult day health care facility, or adult foster care home for which no immediate family member is available and for whom self-collection and submission of the absentee ballot by the voter is impossible.
  1. Each individual other than a postal or common carrier collecting such an absentee ballot shall submit the completed form that is sent to the voter with the voter’s absentee ballot. This form shall identify the name, address, telephone number, and relationship of the individual delivering the ballot. It must also be signed by both the voter and the deliverer of the ballot and then delivered to election officials along with the completed absentee ballot.
  2. Any other individuals including, but not limited to, candidates, campaign staffers, party activists, and political consultants shall be prohibited from collecting and delivering absentee ballots.
  3. Elections officials shall provide a program for all individuals working in assisted living and long-term care centers, nursing homes, and similar facilities to train such staff in absentee ballot procedures and the applicable state and federal laws on providing assistance to voters. All such facilities receiving funding and other support from the state shall be required to have any of their staff that engage in voter assistance participate in such training.
  1. All voters are required to present a valid photo identification (ID), as listed in subsection B (1) below, to an appropriate election official before voting in person or to provide a photocopy with an absentee ballot request form and an absentee ballot.
  2. A voter requesting an absentee ballot must submit with the absentee ballot application a copy of one of the valid forms of photo identification listed in subsection (1) below.
  1. Acceptable forms of identification shall include:
  1. A driver’s license properly issued by the appropriate state or county department or agency;
  2. A state non-driver’s ID card properly issued by the appropriate state or county department or agency;
  3. A current, non-expired U.S. passport;
  4. U.S. military ID, provided that such ID contains a photograph of the voter;
  5. Tribal government ID, provided that such ID contains a photograph of the voter;
  6. IDs issued by [state] colleges and universities or postgraduate technical or professional schools located within [state], provided that such identification card contains a photograph of the voter and identifies whether the student is a citizen; and
  7. A valid [state] photo voter identification card or other valid identification card issued by a branch, department, agency, or entity of the [state] or the United States authorized by law to issue personal identification, provided that such identification card contains a photograph of the voter.
  8. In lieu of a copy of a valid ID card, a registered voter with a [state] driver’s license or non-driver’s license ID card can provide the serial number of his or her ID on the absentee ballot request form and with the absentee ballot [affidavit or certification form].
  1. Every driver’s license or state-issued photo ID issued shall note prominently whether the individual is a citizen or noncitizen.
  2. If a voter does not possess a state-issued ID, the state shall provide one to the voter free of charge through the Department of Motor Vehicles, county election offices, or other state entity as provided by law.
  1. For individuals physically unable to travel to a state or county office on their own in order to obtain a state ID:
  1. [State] shall provide the appropriate transportation from the individual’s residence to the ID office and back.
  2. Alternatively, [state] shall provide a mobile vehicle to travel to the homes of permanently disabled individuals to provide them with an ID.
  1. If election officials have a photograph of a registered voter, all poll locations using electronic poll books shall have the photograph of the voter available with the registration information of the voter.
  1. Any person who requires assistance to vote by reason of blindness, other disability, or inability to read or write may be given assistance by a person of the voter’s choice other than the voter’s employer or agent of that employer or officer or agent of the voter’s union.
  2. In order to obtain assistance, the voter must specifically request assistance by naming the person from whom assistance is sought. The person providing assistance shall provide a photo ID to election officials and complete an assistance notification form with the name of the voter and name, address, and contact information of the assistor and the reason the assistor is providing assistance to the voter. The voter shall also sign the assistance notification form. If the voter is unable to sign the form, an election official shall note that circumstance on the form.