The Golden Hammer Staff Reports and Austin Bureau Chief Ashley Burke
Austin, May 7 – The Texas House of Representatives passed historic Election Integrity legislation at 3 a.m. this morning on a straight party line vote of 81 to 64. State Representative Briscoe Cain, Republican of Deer Park and Chairman of the House Elections Committee, did a masterful job leading the debate and presenting Senate Bill 7.
All 81 Republicans vote for the bill, while 64 Democrats under the leadership of House Democratic Caucus Chairman Chris Turner, Democrat of Grand Prairie, opposed the legislation.
Cain told the Texas House, “We don’t need to wait for bad things to happen” to ensure Election Integrity in Texas elections. Earlier in the Legislations Session, the Texas Senate had passed Senate Bill 1508, which creates an Election Integrity Division within the Office of the Texas Attorney General. The Senate passed that legislation on a straight party line vote of 18 Republicans and 13 Democrats.
Senate Bill 7, of which Senator Bryan Hughes, Republican of Tyler, was the primary Senate Author, passed the Texas Senate on April 1 also on a straight party line vote of 18 Republicans to 13 Democrats.
Senate Bill 7 was the subject of numerous attempted but failed points of order, during the House debate.
Turner told the House, “The provisions [in this bill] are designed and intended to undermine and suppress participation in elections by black Texans, Latino Texans, the Asian-American community an folks who have a disability…It’s a straight up assault on voting rights.” Turner failed to explain how a bill generally designed to protect the integrity of all elections would discriminate against minority voters rather than protect them.
The Election Integrity legislation will require a House-Senate Conference Committee, as a result of amendments passed in the Texas House, which differ from those in the Texas Senate. It’s likely, however, that the bill will eventually pass both Houses of the 87th Legislative Session, because Republicans are highly motivated to protect Texas Election Integrity and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Governor Greg Abbott have all indicated their strong support for passage of the measure.
Senate Bill 7 includes the following provisions to protect Texas Election Integrity, among others:
- Makes it a state jail felony for a public official, knowingly and acting in an official capacity, to solicit an application to vote by mail from a person who did not request such an application, in response to the effort in 2020 by former Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins who had wanted to send mail-in ballot applications to all 2.3 million voters in Harris County;
- Creates a state jail felony offense for a person who makes a false statement, or swears to the truth of a false statement previously made, while making the oath required of a person selected to provide assistance to a voter;
- Expands the conduct constituting illegal voting to include knowingly voting or attempting to vote in an election in Texas after voting in another state in an election in which a federal office appears on the ballot and the election day for both states is the same day;
- Clarifies that it is the offense of election fraud to engage in any knowing or intentional effort to influence the independent exercise of the vote of another in the presence of the ballot or during the voting process to include as such constituent conduct altering the ballot of another or otherwise causing a ballot to not reflect the intent of the voter, including counting invalid votes or alter a report to include invalid votes; or failing to count valid votes or alter a report to exclude valid votes; and increases the penalty for election fraud from a Class A misdemeanor to a state jail felony;
- Strengthens enforcement provisions for unlawful compensation for assisting voters;
- Includes in the oath required of a person selected to provide assistance to a voter a statement swearing or affirming that the person did not pressure, encourage, coerce, or intimidate the voter into choosing the person to provide assistance;
- Prohibits a presiding judge from requiring an appointed watcher to leave a polling place and from having an appointed watcher removed from a polling place;
- Establishes that the purpose of provisions governing appointed watchers is to preserve the integrity of the ballot box in accordance with the Texas Constitution by providing for the appointment of watchers to observe the conduct of an election and call to the attention of an election officer any observed or suspected irregularity or violation of law in the conduct of the election;
- Requires a public official to construe the provisions of the Election Code strictly to effect the intent of the legislature that the application of those provisions and the conduct of elections be uniform and consistent throughout Texas to reduce the likelihood of fraud in the conduct of elections.