Lawmakers In Three States Introduce Legislation To Expand Voting Rights

After Republicans spent the past two years passing voter suppression bills, progressives in several states are gearing up to fight back next year with legislation that would increase voting rights.

In the last week, lawmakers in states ranging from Florida to Virginia to New Jersey pre-filed bills to help Americans access the ballot box and ensure that citizens aren’t disenfranchised.

  • FLORIDA: HB 25 to ease restrictions on registration groups. Rep. Darryl Rouson (D) pre-filed legislation to undo the change last session that hamstrung voter registration groups like the League of Women Voters by requiring that they submit completed forms within 48 hours to the minute or face fines. The move had forced outside organizations to shut down their operations, which harmed minorities and other groups of voters who tend to benefit from registration drives. A federal judge invalidated the suppression law earlier this year. Rouson’s bill would remove it from the books entirely and restore previous law, which allowed 10 days for groups to submit registration forms.
  • NEW JERSEY: AB 3553 to establish early voting. New Jersey is one of just 18 states that doesn’t have some form of early voting. That could change next year if AB 3553, sponsored by seven New Jersey assemblymen, is passed. The bill would establish a 28-day early voting period in the state, from the fourth Monday before the election through the final Sunday prior to Election Day.
  • VIRGINIA: HB 1361 to allow anyone to vote absentee. Delegate Jim Scott (D) introduced a bill to permit “no-excuse” absentee voting in Virginia. If passed, any Virginian would be allowed to vote via absentee ballot, not just those residents who are out of town on Election Day.
  • VIRGINIA: HJ 563 to restore voting rights for ex-felons. Delegate Joe Morrissey introduced legislation that would restore voting rights for individuals who were convicted of a felony but have finished repaying their debt to society. Currently, Virginia is one of just four states that strip voting rights from millions of citizens by permanently disenfranchising people who have ever been convicted of a felony.

In addition, after some Floridians were forced to wait in line more than six hours to vote, officials in Miami-Dade County sent a request to the Florida state legislature this week to extend the early voting period in populous counties.