Fighting for Transparency & Fiscal Responsibility in Local Government

House Elections Committee Update

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Yesterday the Texas House Elections Committee held its most substantive hearing of the session to date, voting out bills for consideration and taking up several major items.

In the Senate, the State Affairs Committee heard a wide-ranging bill by Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola). Direct Action Texas registered in support of the Hughes measure, SB 9. More on that later.

Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth), Chair of the House Elections Committee, brought a handful of bills up for a vote, marking the first time this session bills have moved out of her committee. Four of the bills passed without opposition (HBs 88, 273, 1048 and 1241).

Two additional measures advanced did not receive unanimous support, HB 1067 and HB 1421. The former is a bill that would allow for a deceased individual to be removed from the ballot and the latter is an election “cybersecurity” bill.

HB 1421 and its counterparts across the country coincide with meritless hand wringing over Russian hacking of the 2016 election. While there were attempts at hacking, the efforts were largely unsuccessful, suggesting that measures currently safeguarding our election systems are effectively working.

Where the attacks were most successful reveals hypocrisy, as many cybersecurity advocates are clamoring for online voter registration. FiveThirtyEight reported that 21 states were scanned in 2016 and 1 was hacked. That state, Illinois was breached by way of the online voter registration system.

Last week, during testimony on HB 1421, multiple witnesses testified against the measure, noting that the bill is unnecessary given the effectiveness of our current system, the information being protected is a public record and that the bill appears to be a vendor handout.

In other states, including California and New York cybersecurity programs have been used to expand the scope of the power of political regulators, including the regulation of speech. In California, the cybersecurity monitors social media and “combats misinformation.”

Representatives Middleton and Swanson voted in opposition to the measure.

Currently the secretary of state’s office is conducting security evaluations with counties by way of a vendor with federal funding.

Among the more lively testimony, Pam Joyce, with the Harris County Republican Party testified convincingly in opposition to HB 1463 mandating joint primaries calling it a, “highly partisan and distasteful bill.” Currently, the decision to call a joint primary is up to county party officials.

Ed Johnson testifying on HB 1463 stated that election poll workers in Harris County have intimidated voters by refusing to give Spanish speaking voters Republican primary ballots, insisting they vote a Democrat ballot.

Chair of the Republican Party’s working group on election integrity Kathleen Wall testified that while working polls she had to instruct a man who had been bounced from multiple poll locations in a joint primary election that he had a right to vote a Republican ballot at the polling place he originally visited.

Participation in primary elections is a driver for general election participation. In counties where voter intimidation is taking place during a joint primary, this can have an adverse effect on general election turnout and results.

The bill immediately following HB 1463, to increase pay for election judges in joint primaries, was suggested by Democrat Glen Maxey. Briscoe Cain questioning the bill’s author Jon Rosenthal (D-Houston) exposed this and

Of the bills passed out of committee with unanimous consent, two were authored by Valoree Swanson (R-Spring) and the others by Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City), and John Bucy (D-Cedar Park) respectively.

Sunshine Week Election Bills

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It’s Sunshine Week, a time when open government activists reflect on the lack of transparency from government agencies and elected officials. Putting aside ire for the government’s failures to provide adequate insight into how money is spent and power wielded, this year we’ve surveyed bills filed this legislative session that will increase transparency.

Election watchdogs require access to voting records in order to expose fraud and voters deserve to have access to information as it increases trust.

This session several bills have been filed to increase access to election information, lower costs for access, and clarifying measures. Below are a few we’re tracking.

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Term Limits Proposed in Texas

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Representative Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredricksburg) has authored a constitutional amendment (HJR 98) to enact term limits in the state of Texas. Where similar efforts have failed to gain traction in past sessions, Biedermann’s bill has key differences that might make it a more compelling sell.

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ELECTION COMPLAINTS FILED WITH TEXAS SECRETARY OF STATE BY DIRECT ACTION TEXAS

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact Christine Welborn (682) 626-5679

christine@directactiontx.com

Direct Action Texas finds election irregularities in Webb County Texas – files complaints with the Texas Secretary of State

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, TEXAS (March 8, 2019) — Today, Direct Action Texas (DAT) filed 7 formal complaints with the Texas Secretary of State’s elections division regarding voting irregularities in Webb County, Texas.

Following a review of mail in ballots from last year’s Democratic Primary, DAT discovered over a hundred election code violations. It is clear from the evidence that, similar to other counties, there appears to be an illegal, mail in ballot harvesting operation in Webb County.

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Election Bills Moving

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This week the Texas House Elections Committee held a hearing for the first time dealing with specific legislation.

Last week the committee heard invited testimony from ethics and election officials. According to Collin County’s election administrator, the aspect of our voting process most susceptible to fraud is mail-in ballots. More on this later.

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