House approves Senate’s mail-in ballot fraud bill


Highlights

Under the bill, an offender could face up to 10 years in prison in some fraud cases.

The House is scheduled to take a final vote on the measure Thursday.

After more than three hours of debate Wednesday, the Texas House voted 90-37 to tentatively approve a Senate bill that would increase penalties for mail-in ballot fraud. The House is scheduled to take a final vote on the measure Thursday.

Senate Bill 5, by Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, would require a signature verification process for early ballots, notification of rejected ones within a month after an election and a process for correcting errors. Punishment for committing mail-in voter fraud in some cases could carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Hancock and bill supporters have said the bill would protect the most vulnerable voters: seniors and people with disabilities.

But some House Democrats said SB 5 focuses more on penalties than solutions to fraud, and that a special session isn’t enough time to draft sound legislation. Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, called SB 5 “sloppy” and argued for a more robust conversation before moving forward on voter fraud legislation.

READ: Gov. Abbott predicts special session will create a ‘far better’ Texas

“The system needs to be reformed to make the commission of the crime impossible or more difficult to commit in the first place, not enhancing the penalty,” Johnson said.

Johnson offered an amendment that would have essentially killed SB 5. The chamber voted it down, a fate shared by all but one amendment offered by Democrats.

The House approved changes to the bill that would prohibit electronic signatures on mail-in ballot applications and repeal House Bill 658 — passed during the regular session earlier this year — which gives voting priority to people with mobility issues and makes it easier for people in residential care facilities to vote by bringing ballots and an election official to their location — if at least five voters living there request a ballot. Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law in June, setting it to take effect on Sept. 1.

Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, who is carrying SB 5 in the House, said HB 658 is an unfunded mandate to nursing homes and similar facilities and that it would be difficult for some counties to make the accommodations for seniors and people with disabilities.

FIRST READING: This is the way the special session ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.

Under SB 5, a person could face jail time if they try to influence a vote “in the presence of the ballot or during the voting process,” a part of the bill that has drawn the most criticism from Democrats and other opponents of the bill. They argue that specific language could land people in legal jeopardy if they discuss a candidate’s qualifications to a loved one while the ballot is present. Goldman said the premise is “unrealistic,” and that the bill targets people harvesting mail-in ballots and who “knowingly and willingly” committing fraud.

“I don’t think any other family member is going to turn in their aunt or their uncle, their dad, their mother or their brother for committing fraud, if they’re sitting around the kitchen table and a ballot happens to be there, and they talk about how their going to vote,” Goldman said.

Reducing mail-in ballot fraud is one of Abbott’s 20 special session items. As lawmakers look for a solution, Dallas County is prosecuting a mail-ballot fraud case in which 700 ballots were marked as suspicious.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Dallas somehow named the sweatiest city in Texas; Houston baffled as Austin comes in second
Dallas somehow named the sweatiest city in Texas; Houston baffled as Austin comes in second

  We all know the stereotypes: Houston is hot and humid, Austin is hot yet hipster and Dallas is absolutely a city in Texas (with a famous football team and some terrific art museums). We know these truths to be self-evident, right? According to the fine people at Dallas News, a researcher working with Honeywell Fans ranked 50 U.S. cities &ldquo...
OVERNIGHT: Woman critically injured in crash on I-35 in North Austin
OVERNIGHT: Woman critically injured in crash on I-35 in North Austin

A woman was critically injured early Friday in a crash that happened on Interstate 35 in North Austin, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said. Medics said they responded at 12:27 a.m. to the 12800 block of the Interstate 35 North frontage road, which is near Parmer Lane, for the crash. A woman was taken to St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center...
Pedestrian hit by vehicle, critically injured late Thursday, EMS says
Pedestrian hit by vehicle, critically injured late Thursday, EMS says

A pedestrian was critically injured late Thursday after being hit by a vehicle in North Austin, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said. Medics said crews responded to the crash on Lamar Boulevard and Powell Lane shortly before midnight. Officials said they took a man to Dell Seton Medical Center with critical, life-threatening injuries. No additional...
TRAFFIC ALERT: Several downtown streets closed as police investigate shooting
TRAFFIC ALERT: Several downtown streets closed as police investigate shooting

Austin police have shut down several streets in Downtown Austin while investigators gather evidence related to a police shooting that left a 21-year-old dead on Friday morning. According to police, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth streets are blocked off at San Jacinto and Trinity streets, along with the intersection of Seventh and Brazos streets. Drivers...
Student stabbed in Oklahoma on first day of school
Student stabbed in Oklahoma on first day of school

A 14-year-old Oklahoma girl was stabbed multiple times during an orientation session at her high school Thursday. >> Read more trending news  Police said the incident happened at Luther High School. A 14-year-old boy was taken into custody and booked at the Oklahoma County Jail. Luther police later said the girl was stabbed...
More Stories