Texas election integrity reform bill ready for governor's signature

AP Photo/Eric Gay

The election integrity bill that caused the Texas state Democrats to run away from Austin this summer has passed both the Texas House of Representatives and the Senate. Senate Bill 1 now awaits Governor Abbott’s signature.

Many posts have been written here about Texas Democrats, nicknamed the fleebaggers. They allowed national Democrats to use them as useful idiots in order to put pressure on members of the U.S. Senate who are not inclined to vote in favor of the For the People Act, the massive overreach on voting law passed by House Democrats. The Texas state legislators, unknown to anyone outside of Texas, enjoyed more than a month in D.C. trying to get people to pay attention to them. They ended up defeated and humiliated. The social media posts of lunch salads and underwear drying in a hotel bathroom as the Texas Democrats tried to get noticed will no doubt turn up in campaign ads for their opponents.

The bill was slightly revised during twelve hours of debate. It is notable that Democrats and their media partners are labeling the legislation as voter suppression, as restricting voting while Republicans describe the bill as reforming election integrity. As I’ll show you, the bill actually expands voting opportunities and provides uniformity of election law throughout the state. This all came up because Harris County (Houston) Democrat officials went rogue during the 2020 election cycle, pointing to the pandemic as an excuse to allow voting to be conducted as it never had been before in Texas. Never let a crisis go to waste.

Governor Abbott issued a statement upon final passage of the bill.

“Protecting the integrity of our elections is critical in the state of Texas, which is why I made election integrity an emergency item during the 87th Legislative Session. I thank Sen. Brian Hughes, Rep. Andrew Murr, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Dade Phelan for stepping up to ensure that this bill made it to the finish line during the second special session. Senate Bill 1 will solidify trust and confidence in the outcome of our elections by making it easier to vote and harder to cheat. I look forward to signing Senate Bill 1 into law, ensuring election integrity in Texas.”

These are the points in the legislation:

Absentee voters, primarily elderly and disabled Texas, have new ID requirements, but also a new process to correct errors found with their vote-by-mail application and ballots.

Election officials who send out unsolicited vote-by-mail applications, even to voters who qualify, could be charged with a felony. Political campaigns are still allowed to send them out.

Poll watchers, who work on behalf of candidates or political parties to observe elections, are allowed “free movement” in the polling place, keeping just the ballot box off limits. Election officials could face criminal penalties for obstructing a poll watcher’s view or turning away a watcher who is qualified. The watchers must take a new training course and pledge not to “harass voters.”

The state’s largest counties, including Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton, have to implement a video surveillance system to livestream all areas containing voted ballots, including central count.

Early voting could only take place between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Counties with populations over 55,000 — instead of the current 100,000 — must offer at least 12 hours of early voting on weekdays.

Drive-through voting is prohibited, which was offered in at least three counties last year to make voting more accessible in the pandemic.
Assistants who help disabled Texans vote must disclose their relationship with the voter and pledge under penalty of perjury that they didn’t pressure or coerce the voter into choosing them.

A candidate could sue an opponent for civil damages over alleged election fraud violations carried out by the opponent or someone acting on his or her behalf.
Election officials can face civil penalties, including termination and loss of employment benefits, for violating the state’s election code.

As you can see, there is nothing radical there. Texas still has some of the most generous early voting opportunities in the country. This bill actually extends early voting hours in some counties – in smaller counties, a full twelve hours of early voting must be offered every weekday during early voting. Some have voiced concern over poll watchers. Typically there are some Democrats who object to Republican poll watchers in heavily Democrat polling places. Shocking, I know. This bill allows a fair opportunity for poll watchers from both parties to be held accountable for their actions and to hold those running elections to be held accountable. This prevents bullies like Sheila Jackson-Lee in Houston from trying to run off Republican poll watchers in her district, for example.

Twenty-four-hour voting and drive-through voting were two of the provisions allowed in 2020 in Harris County that were not part of election law and had never been done before. The same is true for the aggressive rookie Democrat County Clerk in Harris County trying to mail mail-in ballot applications to every registered voter in the county. Mail-in voting requirements must be met in Texas and mail-in ballots are only sent to those who ask for them. Democrats want desperately to have the opportunity to do some ballot harvesting. Texas does not offer universal mail-in voting.

The Texas state legislators exposed themselves on the national stage as the pathetic weenie losers they are and allowed themselves to be used by national Democrats unable to get their bill passed. The For the People Act will allow changes in voting and elections that will pave the way for a permanent Democrat majority. The Texas Democrats were not able to move the needle for the national Democrats in D.C. Instead, their summer vacation trip was used for fundraising and trying to raise their national profile. It backfired and they returned to Austin to do their jobs. They prevented the general session from finishing its business at the end of May, it put a halt to the business of the first special session, and now in the second special session, the bill is completed and will be signed into law. This is always how it was going to end. Republicans hold a majority in both the Texas House and Senate. The Democrats knew it was inevitable. Instead of working with Republicans, they chose to run. They literally made it their way or the highway. Their childish tantrum just prolonged the inevitable.