Patrick Singles Out Abuse of Public Resources in Interim Charges

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This week, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick issued interim charges to be addressed ahead of the next legislative session. Included among his priority issues, election integrity.

Key among his charges was ending the abuse of government resources to campaign for candidates and causes. Needless to say, the left is upset. More on this in a bit.

The interim charge dealing with election integrity was delegated to the State Affairs Committee. Committees work interim issues to gather information, build consensus and craft legislation ahead of necessarily condensed regular legislative sessions.

Following the legislative session, Patrick named Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) to chair the State Affairs Committee. Ahead of the 2019 session, Sen. Hughes chaired an interim committee dealing specifically with election security and authored several crucial bills during the session dealing with issues stemming from that committee’s findings.

As we’ve previously written, blame for the failure of substantive election integrity legislation in 2019 falls at the feet of the House, specifically the Elections Committee. A typical excuse deployed for inaction is lack of time. Like most of the excuses deployed by our derelict elects, this one is particularly lame since most issues are identified and defined well in advance of the session.

Back to the interim charges at hand. While they may come in no particular order (they aren’t, for instance, listed alphabetically) the only issued listed before elections to be dealt with by the State Affairs Committee is human trafficking.

Frustratingly, many of the items included in Patrick’s charges were addressed by legislation emanating from his chamber during the 2019 session, only to be killed once it reached the House. Let’s take a look at three line items from the interim charge.

Patrick leads off with, “study the integrity [there isn’t any] and security of voter registration rolls.” Direct Action Texas and Grassroots America in the fall of 2018 called on statewide officials to address inaccurate voter rolls and while bureaucratic attempts were made, they failed. Lawmakers need to act to ensure accurate rolls are being used to conduct elections in Texas. Ironically, it doesn’t really matter how secure the rolls are if they are fundamentally flawed.

Dealing more specifically with the overall charge, Patrick adds, “ensure counties are accurately verifying voter eligibility after voter registration.” There is an issue with this charge and one that election integrity advocates have been pushing back on for some time, automatic registration. While it is the case that anyone can apply to be registered, accuracy checks should be verified before registration. Minor but important.

Finally, there’s a charge that has unions in Texas throwing fits, dealing with illegal use of public funds to campaign by public employees, “ensure compliance with laws that prohibit school trustees and employees from improperly using public funds to advocate for or against any candidate, measure, or political party.

Currently, state resources including the time of state employees are being used to prop up candidates and issues. Pat Fallon authored legislation to deal with this specific issue, SB 1569.

The bill extended restrictions on the use of public resources to individual members of school board of trustees, as well as employees and contractors, adding language that would limit taxpayer-funded communications, including social media and emails, that would promote or oppose candidates and/or measures.

Trustees, school district employees, and contractors should not be able to use school funds and resources to influence elections from which they are likely to directly benefit.

After passing out of the Senate, the bill languished like so many others once it got to the House, not receiving a hearing in the Elections Committee for almost a month. Even after it was heard, the bill was left pending in the committee where it died.

The full charge on the topic of elections is linked here and included below.

Elections: Study the integrity and security of voter registration rolls, voting machines, and voter qualification procedures to reduce election fraud in Texas. Specifically, study and make recommendations to: 1) ensure counties are accurately verifying voter eligibility after voter registration; 2) improve training requirements for mail-in ballot signature verification committees; 3) ensure every voter has access to a polling station, particularly in counties that have adopted countywide polling; 4) allow the voter registrar, county clerk, and Secretary of State to suspend an unqualified voter’s registration or remove an ineligible voter from a list of registered voters; and 5) ensure compliance with laws that prohibit school trustees and employees from improperly using public funds to advocate for or against any candidate, measure, or political party.

Training of ballot verification boards is crucial and currently lacking. If you or your constituents need training, send us an email.

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