Texas

Texas House Commission hears public testimony on controversial election bill

The Texas Parliament has returned to a special session this week (legislative overtime).

At the end of the regular session in May, Republican leadership had not gained all priorities throughout the process, partly due to procedural tactics by the Democratic Party. As a result, Governor Greg Abbott, the only authorized person in the state, has recalled lawmakers to Austin for at least one more special session.

One of the most controversial and high-profile legislation that failed during the regular legislative session was the widespread election bill that the Republicans called election integrity and the Democratic oppression of voters.

The mix of Republican mistakes and effective delay tactics by a large number of Democrats ultimately hampered the bill’s progress.

Republican leaders are now reintroducing a new version of the special session bill, and lawmakers are taking action through committee hearings, the first major step in the process.

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On Saturday, the Texas House of Representatives Special Committee on Constitutional Rights and Relief will hear public testimony on the election bill, HB3.

Once the public testimony is complete, lawmakers can vote on whether to move the bill to the full house.

Watch the full hearing with the video player above.

Find a description of what’s in the current version of the bill below, courtesy Alexaura Texas Tribune, KSAT partner.

Prohibition of drive-through voting

Both SB1 and HB3 ban the type of drive-through voting offered by Harris County last year by requiring voting inside the building.

Harris County first tested drive-through polling in the summer 2020 primary, which was largely indisputable, but the use of 10 drive-through polling stations in the November general election was It was placed under the supervision of the Republican Party.

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Most of the county drive-through polling stations were located under large tents. Voters stayed in the car, presented their photo ID, confirmed their registration, and then cast ballots on a portable voting machine. A drive-through vote was held in the garage at the Toyota Center, home of the Houston Rockets. This option was popular, with one in ten early voters in the county throwing ballots at drive-through locations.

New regulations for early voting, including a ban on 24-hour voting

Both bills also regulate early voting times to precede the expanded early voting offered in Harris County. It also pioneered uninterrupted voting 24 hours a day at several polling stations. While the Senate terminates voting at 9 pm, the House wants to establish a new voting window from 6 am to 10 pm.

The bill adds the early voting time required for local elections from 8 to 9 hours, and both bills must provide at least 12 hours of early voting on each weekday of the second week of early voting. Lowers the population threshold for a county. Voting in state elections. The Senate will lower the current population threshold from counties with a population of 100,000 or more to counties with a population of 30,000 or more. The house sets a threshold of 55,000 and above.

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As expected, both the House of Representatives and the Senate have withdrawn from the controversial proposal to limit the start time of early Sunday voting. This was ridiculed as an attack on a “soul to poll” effort focused on black church members. Instead, both chambers will apply a new window of voting at weekend time, adding an additional hour of voting time to move from 5 to 6 hours.

Prohibition of distribution of mail ballots

SB1 and HB3 have banned local election authorities from sending unsolicited applications to request mail voting, and the house version is a felony in state prisons. Both bills prohibit the use of public funds to “promote” the distribution of unsolicited applications by third parties. This will prevent the county from providing applications to local groups that help them win votes. Political parties can submit unsolicited applications on their own dime.

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The proposal is a direct response to Harris County’s attempt to proactively send applications to all 2.4 million registered voters last year to give specific instructions on how to determine eligibility. The Texas Supreme Court eventually blocked the effort, but other Texas counties sent applications to voters over the age of 65 without much scrutiny. These voters are automatically eligible to vote by mail, but will also block the mailing of unsolicited applications in the future.

New ID requirements for exercising voting rights by mail

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are proposing to change the rules used to validate applications for voting by mail and returning ballots. Voters are required to provide a driver’s license number as the bill sets new identity requirements. If not, you will need to enter the last four digits of your Social Security number on these ballot applications. To count the number of votes, you must include information that matches the envelope you used to return the ballot.

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These requirements have been closed-door additions to the final version of the voting bill that failed during regular sessions and have not been widely discussed. The language comes from separate Republican bills that weren’t passed in the spring.

Texas generally has strict rules outlining who can receive a paper ballot that can be filled out at home and returned by mail or dropped directly on election day. Options are limited to voters over the age of 65, who go out of the county during elections and are locked up in jail, but otherwise qualified, without help, or vote directly without risk Quoting obstacles or illnesses that prevent them from damaging their health. The state is currently using a signature verification process to verify completed ballots.

Mailing ballot correction process

What appears to be a concession to the Democratic Party is a new amendment process for mail ballots that are usually rejected for approvals that both HB3 and SB1 have determined to be missing signatures or not affiliated with the local review board. Contains the language for creating the voter who returned the ballot.

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The word, pushed by the Democratic Party, was included in the negotiated version of the voting bill, which left the House of Representatives during a regular session but was eventually excluded from the final version of the bill.

Monthly citizenship check

SB 1 deviates from House law by setting up a monthly review of the state’s voter roster to identify non-citizens. This is reminiscent of the state’s failed 2019 voter roster review. The bill compares individuals who have been told by the Texas Secretary of State that they are not citizens when they obtain or renew their driver’s license or ID card by comparing a vast state-wide voter registration list with data from the Department of Public Security. Must be identified.

This type of review is categorized as “potentially a non-US citizen” and is set up to receive notifications from local voter registration agencies asking them to prove their citizenship to keep their registration secure. Landed the state in federal court on concerns targeting naturalized citizens.

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State electoral authorities will eventually end their efforts as part of an agreement to resolve three legal issues and will only flag voters who have provided the DPS with a document indicating that they are not citizens after voting registration. Agreed to recreate the methodology. But they seem to have never made an effort after the blunder.

The Senate bill does not mention the agreement, but does show that the Secretary of State is responsible for setting rules for conducting reviews.

Crystal Mason Regulations

Meanwhile, HB 3 has wording in response to the controversial conviction of Crystal Mason, a Tarrant County woman facing five years’ imprisonment for throwing provisional ballots in the 2016 elections. is included. The Democratic Party called for the language to be added to the voting law during regular legislative sessions.

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Mason said he was released under supervision at the time for a federal conviction and was unaware that it made her ineligible to vote. HB 3 requires the judge to be notified if the conviction prohibits voting and requires proof beyond the provisional vote to attempt an illegal vote to count as a crime.

Enhanced voting watcher protection

Both bills allow “free movement” within the polling place, except that voters are present at the polling place when filling out ballots, thereby allowing partisan voting observers to be autonomous at the polling place. Contains wording that enhances sexuality. Both chambers of commerce also want to make it a criminal offense to block their view or keep observers away “in a way that observations are not reasonably effective.”

Poll observers now have the right to sit or stand “near convenient” for elected workers, and preventing them from being monitored is a criminal offense.

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Texas House Commission hears public testimony on controversial election bill

Source link Texas House Commission hears public testimony on controversial election bill

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