Texas Senate passes election integrity legislation for a third time this year

By Bethany Blankley 

The Texas Senate has passed election reform legislation authored by Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, for a third time this year. The Republican-majority House failed to pass the measure during the regular session and hasn’t it yet heard in both special sessions called by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Abbott has made election reform a priority legislative item, which by law requires the legislature to take up during the called legislative session.

SB 1, which passed along party lines, is the third version of a reform bill introduced by Hughes, similar to SB 1 passed in the first special session and SB 7 passed in the regular session. Some of SB7’s provisions were ultimately removed from SB 1 because they had passed as standalone bills during the regular session.

“No one can deny we can and should always work toward a better election process, one that’s safer and more accessible,” Hughes said. “Those of us who have read the bill know what’s in it: common-sense reforms that make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

SB 1 would ban a number of voting strategies employed by Harris County during the 2020 election, including drive-through voting, unsolicited applications for voting by mail, and 24-hour voting. It would also standardize early voting statewide, increasing early voting hours in 55 counties, and give poll watchers more leeway to observe election procedures.

Several election integrity bills have also been filed in the House during the second special session, including the House version of SB 1, HB 3, and HB 26, which proposes conducting a forensic audit of the 2020 general election.

Proposed by Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, the bill would authorize the governor, lieutenant governor, and House Speaker to select an independent third party to conduct a forensic audit of elections held in the 13 most populated counties in Texas. The counties include in order of greatest population, Harris, Dallas, Bexar, Tarrant, Travis, Collin, Denton, Hidalgo, Fort Bend, El Paso, Montgomery, Williamson, and Cameron.

“We need a forensic audit to uncover all the voter fraud,” Toth said when he proposed the idea of a Texas Voter Confidence Act.

A forensic audit involves an analysis of voter records and election administration records to determine the accuracy of reported results and compliance with state election laws and voting security procedures.

Among other measures, it would involve analyzing ballots, including those sent by mail, paperwork at polling locations and tabulation documents, chain-of-custody and security logs, a comparison of voter rolls and registration, voting system software and electronic processes, and any other paper or electronic records kept by local election administrators.

There are currently more than 500 election fraud cases before the courts, according to Attorney General Ken Paxton’s Office, and another 400 election fraud cases are being investigated.

All of these bills are in limbo as long as Democrats remain absent from Austin, and the House cannot meet quorum. Democratic House members said they fled the state to avoid voting on the election reform measures.

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