HB 2909 Special Interest Spin Debunked

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Thus far, the session has been a disappointment for conservatives, a fact that appears unlikely to change in the waning days of the biennial blitzkrieg.

What’s true generally, and especially in the case of election integrity efforts, is conservatives are operating in good faith. Special interest groups (i.e. vendor advocates), laughably masquerading as independent activists are not.

The latest push from this lot is opposition to HB 2909 as amended by the Senate. Here we’ll examine some of the talking points being trotted out against concurring with HB 2909 and why a committee compromise (while we may support it) is unlikely to materialize.

First, let’s talk about costs. Proponents of all electronic systems are throwing about the term “unfunded mandate” and a dollar amount that fluctuates depending on who you ask between $8 and $10 million. First, the state and county government are mandated to ensure elections are accurately administered. If this administration costs more money, it costs more money.

Currently, trust in elections has been fundamentally undermined by multiple groups on both sides of the political spectrum with multiple talking points. One bipartisan solution to said fears, well-founded or not, is paper ballot backups. This solution is being opposed by a special interest group and their opposition is taking down entire swaths of good election bills.

Next, let’s talk about funding. Try not to laugh, we are talking about $10 million from a state government spending billions and certainly tens of millions of less important endeavors than transparent and verifiable elections. Finding $10 million from one or multiple of several sources including the Secretary of State, federal funding, or an appropriation in the current budget or a supplemental budget next session is more reasonable than killing a bill over $10 million.

Further, when boiled down, it’s ludicrous to allow 3 counties and $10 million to undermine a widely supported and called for practice. Never mind the apparent hypocrisy of county officials griping about this paltry sum as they spend millions to lobby legislators and spend hundreds of millions on programs that, once more, pale in comparison to necessary improvements to voting systems.

Which brings us to the second point, special interest groups in opposition to SB 9 and HB 2909 as amended are operating in bad faith. Conservatives have been working this session to advance several measures. Many necessary reforms were killed in SB 9 by those in opposition to paper ballot backups. These guys (Alan, Ed, Valoree) are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. They’ve done it once and they’re working to do it again.

Go through the mental exercise. Would conservatives and liberals be okay with a transition to paper ballot backups, making accommodations for counties that foolishly adopted dated tech in the last two years? Yes.

Great! Now, what do the special interests propose? It’s been rumored that they have language but in public comments, this cabal has taken an intractable and irrational stance against paper ballot backups. Further, if this mythical language did in fact exist, reasonable observers of the session are right to conclude that it would have been included in the House Committee Substitute for SB 9, it was not.

To restate, conservatives, operating in good faith are fine with a runway. Opponents to paper ballot backups are opposed to the detriment of good policy advancing.

One side note,  assuming that paper ballot backups are not mandated this session (strong bets could be made on this) counties should be dissuaded from making the same mistake that three counties have made, buying dated yet certified technology in the interim. Counties that adopted aging tech should be investigated for malfeasance.

Let’s talk more about conservatives operating in good faith.

SB 9 as substituted by Chairman Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth) was supported by conservatives even though it didn’t have paper ballot backups. This included Direct Action Texas, a long time promoter of paper ballot backups, which registered in support of the measure when it was heard in committee.

The position DAT took on the bill as substituted was level headed and observant of the political realities the bill faced in committee. There were a lot of important things in SB 9 and if the bill had come out of conference committee without paper ballot backups, it would have likely been supported.

Unfortunately, the bill was killed. Again, why was the bill killed? The mere threat of paper ballot backups (even with a “runway”) being added back in conference committee was unacceptable to special interest lobbyist Alan Vera.

Which brings us to, legislative inaction. Who was served by SB 9 dying without the clarity that comes from a bill advancing to the floor of the House for debate and votes? Not voters, who deserved to know the public position of their elected officials. No, it was the special interests working to kill paper ballot backups.

Specifically, it was Hart and their hired guns in the capitol thwarting good government by duping lawmakers into believing a lie. The truth, no single vendor currently has or would maintain a monopoly on elections with mandated paper ballot backups. Repeating talking points countering this fact is dishonest, shameable activity.

It’s not acceptable for bills as important as SB 9 and as amended HB 2909 to sit and languish. Action in governing is transparency, and this session has been short on this when it comes to election integrity.

With HB 2909 moving to a conference committee, once again stripped of paper ballot backups, we’ll see where the rubber meets the road. Odds on favorites are currently on a quiet death for HB 2909, without a runway to paper ballot backups. The public deserves transparent debate and votes on the matter but those become more and more unlikely as the clock runs.

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