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.

Representative Valoree Swanson (R-Spring) has authored HB 4545 which would require posting election results to the government website after an election. What’s more, the bill requires that this posted information be easy to access on the website. Currently, election results are often times omitted from disclosure or difficult to locate.

Senator Bryan Hughes’ (R-Mineola) has a bill that includes posting results but takes things a step further by requiring that election records be available 15 days after election day in an electronic format and cost no more that $50. Counties around the state vary widely in the amounts they charge and in what format they produce records. There is little reason for the exorbitant fees some counties charge and the varying formats of records they relinquish.

Judith Zaffirini’s (D-Laredo) SB 1638 requires that mail-in ballots be counted and reported separately from other early voting ballots. While some counties already separate the two, this information is useful in identifying anomlies in balloting by mail.

Representatives Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie) and Sarah Davis (R-Houston) have jointly authored HB 450 which would require personal financial statements filed by lawmakers to be posted online. Examining how lawmakers are compensated and connected is made more difficult by having to request personal financial statements from filing entities. Having these records available online will lower hurdles for watchdogs and activists.

These are just a handful of the bills being tracked this legislative session that could have an impact on transparency in our elections.

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