S.499 – Election law challenges & appointments

This bill (S.499) would establish that the House speaker and Senate president, on behalf of their respective bodies, have an “unconditional right” to intervene in a state court action that challenges:

  • The validity of an election law
  • An election policy
  • The manner in which an election is conducted

Similarly, in federal court, the bill adds that the two legislative leaders may file an amicus brief, offer evidence (written or oral) and make arguments before the court, even if another state official has yet to appear in the action.

It should be noted that following the 2020 election, state lawmakers have filed a high volume of election-related bills, some of which (if passed) may prompt court challenges. S.499, however, does place any parameters on the inclusion of “election policy” or “manner in which an election is conducted”, leaving the door open for lawmakers to intervene in issues unrelated to actual legislation.

If the State Election Commission (SEC) or attorney general receive notice of a court action, they must notify the House speaker and Senate president within 24 hours.
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Legislative control over State Election Commission appointments

The bill would require that the five members of the State Election Commission (currently appointed by the governor) must be confirmed by the Senate. The Senate would also have confirmation power over the SEC executive director, responsible for supervising county election boards and voter registration, who is currently selected by the commission unilaterally.  

Furthermore, S.499 prevents commissioners from serving after his or her term has expired for more than one year. If a commissioner is reappointed by the governor for another term, but is not confirmed by the Senate before they adjourn for the year, the commissioner would be removed from the position.

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S.499 passed a Senate roll call vote on March 31. After it receives a third and final reading, it goes to the House.

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