Election Integrity Panel Confirms Needed Reforms
On Thursday, an election integrity panel convened in Austin and outlined many needed reforms to secure elections.
Of course, the surface of election integrity can only be scratched in an hour but among the needed reforms addressed were ending mail-in ballot abuse, vigilance to expose illegal assistance at the polls, voter list maintenance, and civil remedies to pursue cases of voter fraud.
The was panel convened at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s annual conference and consisted of J. Christian Adams, Omar Escobar, Jr., Rep. Stephanie Klick and was moderated by Chuck DeVore.
The final word from the panel moderator DeVore was accurate and consistent with our analysis issued immediately after the legislative session, substantive and needed reforms passed out of the Senate but died in the House.
The marquee election integrity bill of the 2019 session was SB 9. Included in the bill were updates to law that would:
- Restrict illegal assistance
- Increase both criminal and civil penalties for breaking election law
- Set parameters on countywide polling
- Strengthen laws regulating poll watchers and signature verification committees
- Provide for automatic recounts and risk-limiting audits
- Clear a path for participation in an interstate cross-check program
- Implement paper ballot backups
Highlighted by Starr County’s District Attorney on the panel was the abuse of mail-in ballot applications, specifically those falsely claiming to be disabled. In the past, counties have been given waivers that expanded mail-in ballot access to anyone.
Ballot by mail fraud is the most prevalent type of election fraud committed. Currently, voting by mail in Texas is offered to people with disabilities, those over 65 years old, voters who will be outside of the county at the time of an election, and eligible incarcerated individuals.
As major election bills were failing during the session, a handful of lesser bills adding transparency for watchdogs became law. Unfortunately, some of these are being ignored.
Under the guise of misinterpretation, a bill mandating election records be available to requestors for a maximum of $50 is being ignored by Dallas County’s Election Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole.
Early in the week, Fort Bend County, currently administering a much-watched special run-off election, was not posting early voting rosters on the county website. This is a newly mandated requirement.
At first, the county stated they were given permission to forego posting by the Secretary of State’s office. To its credit, the SoS, when confronted with this information, clarified that the county was required to post this information, the SoS itself was not. Required postings are now being made.
Election records can and should be easily accessible to election integrity watchdogs so results can be tested in a timely fashion, to spot errors sooner in the process.
The day following Texas Public Policy Foundation’s panel the organization announced it would be engaging the issue of election integrity moving forward, a welcome addition to long-running effective efforts by other conservatives.