Senate Bill 2 passed out of committee last week, as anticipated. The bill increases the penalty for so-called voter fraud to a felony carrying up to 20 years in prison. It also purports to punish anyone who votes or attempts to vote if the voter knows that they are, for example, a convicted felon regardless of whether that voter knows that they are violating the Election Code. If this sounds confusing it is because the amended language of the SB2 is confusing. The League of Women Voters registered its opposition but did not present testimony at this point in the process. However, this is a priority bill for the Elections team and we will take strong action against it when the time is right.
The House Elections Committee held its organizational hearing last week, taking invited testimony only. The testimony from the Secretary of State’s Office and election administrators consistently asked legislators not to make major changes again this session. When questioned by committee members about necessary changes to the vote by mail process, witnesses also consistently supported better application and ballot design and a realistic time line for curing ballots.
March 10 was the last day for new filings. While it will take some time to sort out the late arrivals, one thing is very clear at this point: across all our priority issues, there is a push to discourage opposition to the most extreme outcomes and minority viewpoints. Texas is not alone is this effort. From public education to voting and elections to abortion rights, legislation that limits the discretion of local elected officials while expanding the reach of state officials is likely to gain traction. More bills to empower individuals to enforce the law through audits, records requests and lawsuits are popping up. This is a very disturbing trend. We are watching bills that permit removal of election administrators and prosecutors who do not toe ill-defined lines; that create a new state-wide court to handle cases against the state and new authority in the existing Supreme Court to review criminal cases; as mentioned above, that make it easier to prove ineligible voting; and the list goes on.
Opposing these efforts in the legislature is obvious. Less obvious may be the other assets the League has to combat and reverse this trend. After all, we didn’t get to this point overnight (although lately, it seems so). Over 100 years of experience in deploying all the tools necessary to bend the arc of the moral universe come in handy at times like these. Our voices are strong and authentic, we live where we volunteer. Our reputation is sterling. Our methods are fair and factual. Above all, we are tireless organizers and fierce advocates.
The overarching call to action this session is to remember League Principles and our support for federalism, judicial independence, and the right of all eligible voters to cast a ballot and have it counted. After all if we all stay in our lanes, our Constitutional system of government works.