After two previous attempts, the Election Integrity Protection Act of 2021 will soon become law. Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), passed during the second special session of the 87th Legislature and will take effect Dec. 2.
Proponents say the act will make Texas’ elections more secure, increase election uniformity, reduce the possibility of fraud while protecting ballot confidentiality, promote voter access and ensure all legally cast ballots are counted.
SB 1 amends provisions in the Election Code related to voting from vehicles, early voting polling place hours and temporary branch polling places. It further stipulates that voting systems’ ballots may not be arranged in a manner for a political candidate to be selected in one gesture. Other changes include expanding poll watchers’ observation and reporting authority, creating a criminal penalty for refusing a poll watcher access to a polling place and mandatory training of poll workers (to be developed by the Texas secretary of state).
SB 1 also addresses concerns that voting by mail is more susceptible to fraud by modifying election laws concerning: so-called vote harvesting, the unlawful solicitation and distribution of an application to vote by mail, eligibility criteria for mail ballots, specifications for ballot by mail carrier envelopes, in-person ballot by mail delivery regulations, and the associated criminal penalties.
The act mandates that immediately following the uniform election date in November of an even-numbered year, the secretary of state is to conduct an audit of four counties during the previous two years. The selection of counties to audit is to be random except that two counties must have populations under 300,000 and two counties must have populations of 300,000 or more. A county selected in the most recent audit cycle may not be selected in the current audit cycle. A county selected to be audited may not pay for the cost of the audit.
Several interest groups did not wait for Gov. Greg Abbott to sign the bill into law on Sept. 7 before they filed separate federal lawsuits in Austin and San Antonio stating, "The legislation violates a broad range of federal laws," and "The fight over SB 1 was destined to move from the state Capitol to the federal courts."
For more information about this article, please contact Nanette Forbes.