Memos & Research

MEMO: LCV State Partners are Fighting to Strengthen Our Democracy

May 26, 2023

To: Interested Parties
From: Amanda Gnaedinger, State Democracy Policy Director
Date: May 26, 2023
Re: LCV State Partners are Fighting to Strengthen Our Democracy

As state legislative sessions close, the League of Conservation Voters’ (LCV) focus to protect our democracy continues to grow. LCV and our state affiliates, collectively called the Conservation Voters Movement (CVM), are continuing to prioritize the fight to strengthen our democracy for all communities across the country. Our state affiliates in the environmental movement are a critical part of the democracy space — we cannot have a healthy environment without a healthy democracy, especially in communities historically excluded from the electoral process. The same communities most impacted by the climate crisis and pollution are the same communities who face the most barriers to the ballot box and continued systemic racism and voter suppression. 

This year, LCV announced an initial half-million dollar investment in key states to advance state policies to promote an equitable and just democracy and defend against anti-democracy legislation. Proponents of the Big Lie and election deniers across the country continue their efforts to restrict the freedom to vote by introducing legislation to suppress voters, enact strict and racist voter ID laws, limit the ability for voters to pass ballot initiatives, and draw unfair and discriminatory maps.

Below, we’ve compiled the most important initiatives states in the CVM are fighting for this legislative session to expand access to voting, protect voting rights, and fight against voter suppression and attacks on ballot initiatives. 

LCV State Partners are Working to:

  • Pass State Voting Rights Acts in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Vermont
  • Restore Voting Rights in Illinois, Oregon, Virginia, Florida, and California;
  • Implement and Expand Voter Registration through efforts such as: Early and Same-Day Voting, Vote By Mail, Automatic Voter Registration in Alaska, Arizona, Illinois, Georgia, and Nebraska. 
  • Fight for Fair Maps in Montana
  • Protect Ranked Choice Voting in Alaska and Idaho and Expand Ranked Choice Voting to Connecticut, Georgia, and Vermont
  • Defend Against Anti-Voter Legislation in 11 states

LCV State Partners That Helped Pass or Block Legislation This Session Include:

Ohio — Kept Restrictions on Ballot Initiative Off the Table (Until August!)
The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) Action Fund’s top priority this session is to fight back against relentless attempts by Republicans to restrict the freedom of voters through a constitutional amendment requiring citizen-led ballot initiatives to have 60% of the vote. While the fight is far from over, SJR2 did not make it onto the ballot for Ohio’s primary election in May and is instead now on the ballot for an August special election. OEC Action Fund is supporting the Protect One Person One Vote campaign leading up to the August election, and has written testimony and activated Ohioans to submit their own words, as well as contact legislators, to stop these anti-democratic initiatives. OEC also joined members from a coalition of over 230 groups including veterans organizations, voting rights groups, and environmental organizations to show their vehement opposition to restrictive democracy measures at Ohio’s state house at the end of last year. In addition, OEC Action Fund is fighting against inequitable implementation of HB458, strict voter ID legislation passed last fall.

Idaho — Kept Multiple Anti-Voter Bills + Changes to Ballot Initiatives From Passage!
Conservation Voters for Idaho (CVI) fought against multiple bills intended to suppress voters and restrict their freedom to vote including H205, which would have restricted no-excuse vote-by-mail to only a small percentage of Idahoans meeting specific requirements. In addition, CVI pushed back against opponents of ballot initiatives once again attempting to restrict our right to a free and fair democracy by creating barriers to voters passing laws through SJR101even after the Idaho Supreme Court ruled a similar bill unconstitutional in 2021. See Idaho’s legislative session recap HERE

Utah — Kept Vote-By-Mail Accessible + Clarified Ballot Curing!
Rural Utah Project (RUP) successfully advocated to pass HB37, clarifying the ballot rejection process and eliminating ballots being thrown out without notifying the voter of errors. In addition, RUP pushed back against multiple vote-by-mail bills (HB537 & SB189) and a voter ID bill (SB17) that would have further disenfranchised voters who are already historically excluded from the electoral process. HB537 would have removed vote-by-mail outright and SB189 would have allowed counties to opt out of vote-by-mail— either would have been a devastating blow to communities who rely on the option to vote-by-mail. 

Arizona — Kept Multiple Anti-Voter Bills at Bay!
Our partners at Chispa Arizona fought against multiple legislative efforts that would significantly restrict voting, including systemic and racist voter ID legislation in addition to legislation that would limit the ability for voters to pass ballot initiatives. In response to recent Joint House and Senate Elections Committee hearings, Chispa Arizona, along with over 20 local community groups and lawmakers, sent a letter to the committee to urge them to ensure every eligible voter can access their right to vote — no matter their zip code, race, or income. Chispa Arizona also hosted a lobby day at the state Capitol in February to speak on the importance of a strong democracy to fight for a healthier environment for communities around the country. In March, they joined democracy partners in front of the Capitol again to oppose bills that will harm Arizona voters if passed.

Montana — Kept Fair Maps + Anti-Voter Legislation at Bay!
After over a year of organizing by Montana Conservation Voters (MCV), Montana’s independent redistricting commission rebuffed efforts to unduly favor one party over another and selected a more fair and competitive state legislative map that will be in place for Montana voters for the next 10 years! MCV also successfully pushed back against anti-voter laws intended to further suppress historically excluded voters from having a voice in their communities, including a bill threatening to remove voting rights from Indigenous voters living on reservations.

New Mexico — Kept Voter ID Laws at Bay, NM Civil Rights Act In Place, + At Work to Implement NM’s Voting Rights Act!
Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM) successfully fought against racist legislation this session including a voter ID law, as well as a bill that would have repealed the Civil Rights Act of 2021 and restrict the power of people to seek remedies for constitutional violations — including those impacted by environmental injustice. In addition, after the recent passage of New Mexico’s Voting Rights Act, CVNM is supporting democracy coalition partners through their efforts to hold the state accountable to fully and equitably implement this legislation and through their work with Indigenous and rural communities.

Virginia — Kept Restrictive Voting Laws from Passage + Fighting to Restore Voting Rights!
Virginia League of Conservation Voters (Virginia LCV) opposed and helped defeat a slew of legislation that would severely restrict the rights for Virginians to vote, including HB2234, which would have limited same-day registration to only be allowed by active duty military. Republican lawmakers also pushed to further disenfranchise voters through restrictive voter ID legislation HB1444, which would have repealed provisions to allow voters to sign an affidavit to vote if they don’t have the required ID, and only allow provisional ballots to be counted if the voter returns with newly limited forms of identification. Virginia LCV is continuing their fight for full restoration of voting rights for convicted felons who have paid their debt to society after constitutional amendment SJ223 was passed out of the state Senate, then subsequently blocked in the Republican House. They recently hosted a community event where speakers discussed the need to restore voting rights to those who have been disenfranchised.

Pennsylvania — Kept Restrictive Voter ID Laws at Bay (For Now!)
Although Republicans aimed to pass restrictive voter ID laws this year, Conservation Voters Pennsylvania (CVPA) fought to defeat restrictive voter ID provisions in SB1. In addition, CVPA worked with organizations to ensure rules in the new session of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives include layers of protection for bills to be released from committee, require that a hearing is held before amendments are considered by the full state House, prevent constitutional amendments from being bundled, allow remote voting, and importantly, secure more equitable protections for safer interactions with lawmakers.

Legislation LCV State Partners are Continuing to Fight This Session Include:

Alaska: This year, The Alaska Center is fighting against SB2/HB1, which would repeal ranked choice voting after it was passed by voters through a ballot initiative two years ago. The legislation stalled after legislators listened to constituents, where The Alaska Center played a major role in organizing calls. In addition, The Alaska Center is advocating for legislation, including HB37, which will make positive changes to mail-in voting to fix common mail-in ballot rejections, create a ballot curing process, and establish a ballot tracking system. The Alaska Center is also fighting against a slew of bills that would make voting less accessible for voters, especially voters who are historically excluded from accessing the ballot box. 

Connecticut: Connecticut League of Conservation Voters’ (CTLCV) top priority is to advocate to enact SB1226, which would implement strong voting rights legislation and enact protections modeled after the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act. They recently hosted a lobby day in support of this crucial legislation to protect voting rights. In addition, CTLCV is advocating for HB5004, which would establish strong implementation of early voting in the state through the bipartisan ballot measure Connecticut voters passed in the fall to expand early voting. As one of the largest groups in Connecticut advocating for environmental justice communities and youth, CTLCV is working with democracy organizations to ensure more voters are able to access their right to vote.

Florida: Florida Conservation Voters (FCV) is fighting against the now signed modern Jim Crow law (SB4B) that will limit the rights of formerly incarcerated Floridians after voters passed a ballot measure to restore their voting rights in 2018. In partnership with restoration rights groups, FCV is working to solve major issues with implementation of restoration of voting rights, such as disqualifying and criminalizing voters with fines without a system to see the amount owed. In March, FCV’s Democracy For All Florida program joined Equal Ground, the NAACP, and the Florida Panhandle Coalition for Civic Engagement for a lobby day where they discussed key legislative issues with lawmakers, such as the proposal to raise the threshold of votes to amend the state constitution, in addition to legislation that aims eliminate diversity programs and critical race theory from higher education.

Georgia: Georgia Conservation Voters (GCV) started the session with a win to pass SB129, which would require employers to provide employees two hours to early vote, which is now sitting on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature. GCV also worked to prevent voter suppression efforts from passage, including SB221, which would have strengthened voter challenges, undermined the National Voting Rights Act by removing voters from voter rolls, and banned ballot drop boxes in Georgia. Now, GCV is working with coalition partners to continue to fight a number of voter suppression laws intended to silence the voices of historically excluded communities and sow distrust in our elections. In addition, GCV is fighting to pass laws that will strengthen voting rights in the state, including SB101, which would automatically reuse applications to vote absentee in elections for an absentee ballot in a runoff election. GCV Executive Director Brionté McCorkle joined national democracy partners to highlight the connection between climate justice and the need for strong voting rights during a recent discussion around climate justice and voting rights

Illinois: This session, Illinois Environmental Council (IEC) is advocating to pass HB989, which would restore voting rights to incarcerated voters and ensure historically excluded communities disproportionately impacted by both higher rates of incarceration and environmental injustice are able to have a voice and vote for policies and elected officials that reflect the needs of their communities. 

Maine: Maine Conservation Voters (MCV) is fighting against discriminatory laws being proposed in the legislature including LD34, a bill that would further disenfranchise voters from exercising their fundamental rights by requiring photo ID for elections, and is preparing to advocate against a similar ballot initiative. MCV is also working to implement online voter registration, expand ongoing absentee voting, and ensure dangerous weapons are not allowed in polling places. 

Massachusetts: After Massachusetts passed major voting legislation last year, the Environmental League of Massachusetts is working with coalition partners and grassroots groups to educate the public on the new reforms and ensure municipalities remain opted in to offering vote by mail in municipal elections. Efforts continue to advance same day voting for Massachusetts voters.

Michigan: The Michigan League of Conservation Voters (MLCV) is supporting legislation to allow Michigan voters to vote earlier, which would increase the freedom for voters with schedules that interfere with current election days to access the ballot box. Michigan LCV is also advocating for voter protections through HB4127 and HB4128, which would prohibit the carrying of firearms at polling locations. Additionally, after Michiganders overwhelmingly voted for Proposal 2, a ballot initiative to expand voting rights through a constitutional amendment last fall, Michigan LCV is advocating to ensure its implementation is equitable so all voters in Michigan can participate in the electoral process — and just this month, helped to successfully ensure expanded absentee ballot access to military members and overseas voters.

Nebraska: After Nebraskans passed a ballot initiative last fall requiring IDs to vote, Nebraska Conservation Voters (NCV) is pushing back against legislators who are now introducing restrictive voter ID bills such as LB535 to determine the form of identification accepted at the polls. 

Nevada: Chispa Nevada is working to ensure greater equity for voters to access their freedom to vote by strongly advocating for AB246, which would ensure voting materials are provided in multiple languages, in addition to AB 192, which would ensure mail-in ballot envelopes are uniform across the state. Chispa NV is also working with the Let Nevadans Vote coalition to testify on legislation and ensure Nevadans have greater access to the ballot box.

New Jersey: The New Jersey League of Conservation Voters (NJLCV), in partnership with leading democracy organizations, is advocating for swift passage of the New Jersey Voting Rights Act to ensure strong protections for voters to access their right to the ballot box, which was introduced last fall. In addition, NJLCV is advocating for same-day voter registration and recently hosted a public education event to educate voters and activists on how same-day voter registration will increase voter turnout in New Jersey, inspire participants to take action, and urge lawmakers to pass this important legislation.

New York: After the Voting Rights Act in NY was passed last year, the New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV) is filling a critical role in the democracy coalition as an environmental advocacy organization to address critical provisions not included, including same-day voter registration for New York voters. 

North Carolina: North Carolina League of Conservation Voters (NCLCV) is fighting against multiple anti-voter bills, including a legislative attack on vote-by-mail previously vetoed by Governor Cooper in 2021 — HB304/SB88 and would eliminate ballot drop-offs at voting sites and would require absentee ballots to be received by Election Day to be counted, eliminating the three-day grace period. Additional bills NCLCV is fighting against include proposals to reduce the number of days in early voting (HB123), and racist attempts to remove foreign citizens from voter rolls (SB352).

Oregon: Oregon League of Conservation Voters’ (OLCV) top democracy priority is to guarantee the right to vote through expanded automatic voter registration (HB2107) and restoration of voting rights for Oregonians who are incarcerated (SB579). The latter is a step closer towards passage after passing out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. OLCV Interim Executive Director Lindsey Scholten testified in late January in support of SB579 in coalition with over 40 organizations across Oregon.

Vermont: Vermont Conservation Voters (VCV) is working to build on momentum created by the recent adoption of ranked choice voting in local elections in Burlington, Vermont’s largest city, to pass state-wide ranked choice voting in Vermont. VCV Political Outreach Director Justin Marsh testified in both the Senate and House Committees on Government Operations that ranked choice voting would ensure more voters’ voices are heard, encourage more diverse candidates to run for office, and foster more positive elections. SB32 enjoys widespread support and has already passed the Vermont Senate. Keep up with legislative updates through VCV’s Democracy Dispatch podcast with new episodes every Monday.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin Conservation Voters (WCV) is fighting to enact automatic voter registration for Wisconsinites, which Governor Tony Evers has included in his state budget proposal. WCV recently hosted a lobby day where advocates urged legislators to support automatic voter registration so that all Wisconsin voters can more effectively exercise their fundamental right to vote. WCV is also supporting pro-voter bill (AB38/SB39) focused on improving absentee ballot tracking, and fighting against two anti-voter bills which would exacerbate felony disenfranchisement (AB76/SB69) and outlaw public protest (AB70/SB96). Keep up with WCV’s democracy work as the legislature continues at their Conservation Vote Tracker.