The House and Senate adopted the conference committee report for Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), sending the session’s main elections bill to Gov. Greg Abbott (R). No Democrats voted to adopt the report, and Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) was the lone Republican to vote against it. In the Senate, the report was adopted on a party-line, 18-13 vote.
“It is about ensuring that all Texans trust the outcome of every election in Texas,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) said in a statement. “We’ve succeeded in our goal to make voting in Texas easier while making it more difficult to cheat.” In a statement, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said the bill “will solidify trust and confidence in the outcome of our elections by making it easier to vote and harder to cheat.” Abbott said he would sign it into law.
“This law, the moment it is signed, will be met with great force in the form of a complaint in a United States District Court,” said Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio). Citing “no evidence of fraud” in the state’s elections, U.S. Rep. Colin Allred (D-Dallas) called the bill “nothing but a perpetuation of the Big Lie and an attempt to intimidate and discourage certain Texans from voting.”
Final passage of this legislation has eluded Republican leadership since the end of the regular session, when an hour-long quorum break was all that was required to kill it. Had its sponsors better managed the legislative calendar, it likely would have passed in May. Instead, Democrats sustained their quorum break for five weeks, essentially wiping out the first special session and the first half of the second. Ultimately, their plan lacked an endgame and ultimately failed to prevent the bill’s passage or secure a new federal voting rights bill, although the latter remains a possibility.
The House also adopted a resolution expressing the view of the House that people should not be criminally incarcerated for illegal voting when the person thought they were eligible. House Resolution 123 by Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) is an effort to address cases such as Crystal Mason, a Tarrant Co. woman facing a five-year sentence for casting a provisional ballot – which was never counted – while she was on supervised release for a federal conviction. The resolution lacks the force of law but provides evidence of legislative intent that can be considered by prosecutors and judges. It passed, 119-4, with Reps. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg), Jeff Cason (R-Bedford), Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City) and Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) voting no. Cason and Tinderholt are from Mason’s home county.
Meanwhile, a new election bill that was just filed today (Tuesday) will be heard in the Senate State Affairs Committee tomorrow (Wednesday). Senate Bill 97 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) would establish a formal process for requesting an “explanation and supporting documentation” from a county clerk for an observed “election irregularity.” If the requestor is unsatisfied with the “explanation,” then the Secretary of State would conduct an “audit.” The bill would also require a “review” of the results of the 2020 general election at the request of a state or county party chair.
It stands to reason that these concepts could have been included in Senate Bill 1 or any of its predecessors at any point in the past four months, but it was introduced today and on an apparent fast track, at least in the Senate. It also suggests that some view Senate Bill 1 as insufficient when it come, as Lt. Gov. Patrick said, to “ensuring that all Texans trust the outcome of every election in Texas.”
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