More Smoke & Mirrors… a Look at #TXLege Election Reforms
Aaron Harris | May 26, 2017
They are at it again!
Who is they? Those who provide cover to lazy, squish politicians, such as the Republican Party of Texas’ legal counsel – Eric Opiela.
What are they up to again? Opiela would have you believe state lawmakers accomplished their mission of “meaningful” election reform. Those alleged reforms are the following four bills: SB 1666, HB 1735, HB 2691, HB 4034.
What are the facts?
SB1666 is a 28-page bill. All but two items simply perfecting and or codify how we already do things…in other words it’s house cleaning. There is an increased penalty tag on the bill, which would makes someone who votes in both the Dem and Rep Primary in the same cycle a 2nd degree felon. It’s a solution in search of a problem. This bill also has wording to make organized election fraud a crime, something we desperately need. But the bill is nothing but smoke. It is not paired with wording creating the crime. What is the offense? They conveniently left that out.
HB2691 targets nursing homes. Interestingly, I’m not aware of a single documented case of verifiable nursing home voter fraud. When these bills were heard in committee, no one showed up with testimony about this being a problem. Mostly this bill creates a lot of work for the county and accomplishes nothing. Then again, lawmakers often hang their hats on bills with nice titles that accomplish nothing; it’s the TXLege way.
HB1735 is not a reform bill. This bill codifies how to run primary elections, who pays for what…oh, and what oath the election judge should recite. While these things are needed in the code, they hardly classify as “meaningful” reform addressing election our current integrity issues.
HB4034 – this is a good bill. But doesn’t materially solve any of our challenges right now. It simply allows the Secretary of State to take very limited steps to eliminate certain duplicate registered voters. Again, I’ve seen no instance or data suggesting this has ever been a problem.
What proposals should have passed? How did the #TXLege fail Texans? Let us count the ways.
SB136 by Van Taylor and HB3474 by Fallon both would have required the Secretary of State (SoS) to use various tools, like the existing DPS database, to verify citizenship for those registering to vote. For those seeking voter-roll integrity, it doesn’t get much more simple than making sure all voters are citizens. Both bills died.
HB4131 and HB4133, both by Fallon, would have increased penalties for voter fraud crimes from simple misdemeanors to State Jail Felonies or above. You want to end vote harvesting like we’ve seen in The Valley, Tarrant County, and Dallas? We need to give law enforcement tools to prosecute. These bills would have done that. Both of these bills died in Calendars in the House.
HB4134 by Fallon is an organized crime election fraud bill, which would have given prosecutors the tools they need, but ONLY if coupled with the increased penalties in HB4131. Not surprisingly, this also died in House Calendars and is not the language Huffman picked up in the Senate.
Other bills the Republicans killed:
Republican Controlled Senate State Affairs, chaired by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston)
- SB’s 405, 1125, 1142, 1144, 1717, 2090– comprehensive election reform – Republican State Affairs never heard bills
- SB 829– Paper ballot backup for electronic voting– Republican controlled State Affairs Com never heard bill
- HB2691– On Senate floor, Republicans voted against paper ballot options for counties using vote centers. Republican Senators ignored Texas Republican Party Platform, #59 related to paper ballot options.
Republican Controlled House Election & Calendars Committees, Chaired by Rep. Jody Laubenberg (R-Collin County) and Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi)
- HB 521– Cancel Voter Registration upon admission of non-citizen – Died in Calendars
- HB 1462– Repeal Rolling Polling for Early Voting – Died in Calendars
- HB 1711– Paper ballot backup for electronic voting – No hearing in Elections Committee
As Aaron Harris, Direct Action says, “The record of ‘meaningful’ election reforms from this session is non-existent. Shame on those who work to blow smoke and expect reform-minded Texans to believe their spin. Don’t.”
Dr. Laura Pressley, founder of Save Our Texas Vote Coalition, says, “Both the Texas House and Senate left bills on the table that would 1) Secure paper ballot backups for electronic voting, 2) Increase penalties for election fraud and vote harvesting, 3) Provide crosschecks for voter registrations, and 4) Enhance ballot security.”
Grassroots America’s JoAnn Fleming says, “Make no mistake – this is not a scheme that can be attributed to Democrats alone. We’ve seen enough evidence from Laura and Aaron to believe there are GOP officials up to their eyeballs in election tampering. This is how they defeat primary challengers. When anti-voter fraud bills can’t even get a hearing in a committee chaired by a Republican, something is rotten in Denmark. If Texans cannot trust election results, then we are no better than a banana republic. Every Texan should question why the legislature’s committee chairs failed to move bills that would have strengthened election integrity and ballot security. They had 140 days to get the job done. Could it be that the voting machine lobby’s voices ring louder in Austin than those of the People?”
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