Election Integrity With 20 Days to Go in Session
Securing election integrity from the Texas legislature this session has been needlessly complex.
Republicans in firm control of all branches of government should have crafted and expeditiously passed sound election laws shortly after the session began, 45 to 60 days max.
This was an emergency item, but instead of reforming the beleaguered bedrock of our form of governance, lawmakers fast-tracked tequila-to-go.
By comparison, Georgia passed a clean election integrity bill with a Voter ID requirement on mail-in ballots in a thirty-day session.
Lack of proper prioritization aside, the problems in Texas elections needing addressing weren’t unique, with the policy prescriptions known since the fall.
Yet, here we are, nearing the end of a second legislative session with election integrity outcomes less than certain.
The Senate in both 2019 and 2021 has passed robust bills aimed at fortifying trust in election processes. The House has fumbled what’s been handed off to them and mostly piddled on the margins.
This session, Senate Bill 7, is the election integrity bill that was most needed to ensure trust in our election process could rebound following the ad hoc election administration seen in multiple jurisdictions across Texas in 2020. It’s the one Governor Greg Abbott has been touting on Fox News and on private conference calls.
The House’s election integrity bill, HB6, dealt primarily with election fraud and poll watcher rights.
Both bills are important, but in terms of prioritization, HB6 is not nearly as crucial as stopping the abuse of state logistical resources by Mark Zuckerberg or voting from tents in the middle of the night during a rap concert.
Once SB7 was sent to the House, the best course of action would have been to endure the pain of an actual hearing on the measure, pass it out of committee, and get it to the floor for an up or down vote with minimal or no amendments.
Instead, Briscoe Cain traded the temporary pain in a committee room for a completely avoidable defrocking on the House floor. By gutting SB7 and replacing it with HB6, a floor fight was ensured as amendments would be necessary to make the helpful bill.
Last Thursday, Democrats were prepared for a fight, and the Republicans weren’t. The resultant SB7 is a bastardized bill no conservative should be proud to support. Below is a breakdown of amendments added to the bill last Thursday.
There were nearly 140 amendments filed ahead of a debate on SB7. Many were bad Democrat amendments meant to make the passage of SB7 as painful as possible. There were also needed amendments to the bill filed by Republicans to 1) bring the substituted version of SB7 more in line with what the Senate had passed 2) add safeguards that weren’t in either SB7 or HB6.
At the end of the night, only 20 amendments were debated, the majority of them by Democrats before the bill was abruptly voted on and passed to third reading.
1. [Failed] Jessica Gonzalez (D) amendment to strike the enacting clause of the bill, killing it.
2. [Adopted] Jarvis Johnson (D) strikes “preserve the purity of the ballot box” a line that Rafael Anchia latched onto in order to play the race card on Chairman Cain.
3. [Adopted] Briscoe Cain (R) updated the bill to allow assistance to voters who can’t read or can’t read the language in which the ballot was written.
4. [Adopted] Briscoe Cain (R) adds intent language to the bill to inserting “make voting more accessible” and “increase voter access” to the bill. Additionally the amendment clarifies what poll watchers may or may not do and drops penalties for vote harvesting from a felony to a misdemeanor.`
5. [Adopted] Briscoe Cain (R) amendment dropping new assistance disclosure requirements in multiple portions of the bill and creating a carve out for officials to mail informing to voters about BBM.
Amendment five will almost certainly be abused. In 2020 Harris and other counties intentionally misled voters with “information” about who was eligible to vote by mail suggesting. It’s easy to envision this taking place again with the Cain subsection (e) carve out for public officials.
6. [Adopted] Andrew Murr (R) added legislative intent language regarding legally cast votes being counted and constitutional. Additionally the amendment removed a definition of public official.
Amendment six, outside of clarifications for poll watchers, isn’t needed or compelling and in the case of ballot by mail applications sets up a potential repeat of 2020. Promoting voter access is not the function of the government and targeted abuse of public offices during the 2020 election resulted in a manipulated election outcome. This included public officials sending unsolicited mail in ballots in several states and applications in Harris County. The practice should be done away with and HB6 and SB7 as originally written accomplished this task. The Murr amendment open’s it back up. Further, the punishment for breaking this newly written law is dropped from a state jail felony (actual deterrent) to a Class A misdemeanor (worth cheating).
7. [Adopted] John Bucy (D) carves out a dummy loophole for breaking election law by claiming ignorance and requires courts to inform convicted felons of voting right revocation.
This is the Crystal Mason amendment. Too much has been written about Mason already. She signed an affidavit affirming she wasn’t on parole (which she was) in order to vote for Hillary Clinton. Then when she was prosecuted for illegally voting she turned down a plea deal that would have mean no jail time, was convicted and now faces five years in prison.
8. [Withdrawn] Yvonne Davis (D) dealt with the procedures for removing a watcher from the polling place
9. [Adopted] John Bucy (D) dealing with posting of election information on the internet.
This amendment represents a pet project of Bucy’s and Democrats being allowed onto the Christmas tree election integrity bill while Republican substantive Republican amendments that were offered but never considered were not allowed to come to the floor for debate or a vote.
10. [Adopted] Ina Minjarez (D) requires an unopposed candidate to be declared elected to office and prescribed ballot appearance ordering.
11. [Adopted] John Bucy (D) removes liability from election judges by inserting knowingly to wrongdoing.
12. [Adopted] John Bucy (D) further posting of election information online.
Again, a pet project of Bucy’s that is entertained while Republican measures are killed off by artificially managing debate of this bill.
13. [Adopted] Donna Howard (D) mandates coordination between the TEA and SoS to register high school students twice per year.
This is just the next vote harvesting scheme for Democrats in the state and they are off loading cost and logistical concerns to the government.
14. [Adopted] Stephanie Klick (R) electronic tracking of BBM and voting roster procedures.
Interestingly, this proposed ballot tracking requires information (i.e. a driver’s licence number or personal identification card) that’s not currently needed to cast the BBM. Voter ID for BBM was a proposed amendment to SB7 that was killed.
15. [Adopted] Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D) a ballot curing procedure and BBM early in-person voting.
Voting by mail should be done by mail. The only exception to this historically has been on election day at the elections office a practice that should endure. The Gervin-Hawkins amendment is a slippery slope to drop off ballot boxes that were the bane of trust in elections in both Georgia and California in 2020.
As is the case with the Klick amendment, curing the ballot includes providing Voter ID or social security number information that should be included on BBM that would have been amended to SB7 had it been allowed.
The amendment includes curing via email, a potentially insecure method of curing that has been opposed in the past by election integrity advocates.
Also extends the curing period to nine days after the election. Elections should be completed on the day of the election. There are third world countries that run and complete elections on election day. That the U.S. and Texas are implementing policies and voting procedures that drag out elections to a week or more after election day is an embarrassment.
16. [Adopted] Hubert Vo (D) creates an offense if employers refuse to permit a person to be absent from work on election day or during early voting to attend the polls to vote.
17. [Adopted] John Turner (D) creates the ability for voters to amend voter registration information online and mandates that county registrars communicate and transfer registration.
18. [Adopted] Harrold Dutton (D) expands the use of names by a candidate on the ballot.
19. [Adopted] Travis Clardy (R) clarifies the bill regarding assistance to a voter who is unable to read the ballot due to disablity or language barrier.
20. [Adopted] Michelle Beckley (D) provides for an audit of the voting system equipment.
Now differences in the bill as passed by each chamber will be hammered out in the conference committee. The version passed by the Senate is more robust and doesn’t include bad amendments added to squib kick SB7 off the House floor. Reversion required.