Despite no evidence of substantial electoral fraud in Texas, Republicans prepare to pass sweeping election legislation with new provisions that make it easier to quash an election in which fraudulent votes are suspected and lower the standard of proof of fraud before a criminal court.

The burden of proof for the Texas voter fraud charges is “clear and compelling evidence.” The bill would change that standard to “preponderance of evidence”.

A related measure would allow a judge to overturn an election if the total number of ballots found to be fraudulent exceeds the margin of victory. In such cases, a judge could “declare the election void without attempting to determine how the voters voted”.

“If you don’t have to show that they would have made a difference, then even ‘illegal votes’ or ‘fraudulent votes’ for your side are factored into this equation,” said Tommy Buser-Clancy, lawyer. of American civil society. Texas Freedoms Union. “This is just a perpetuation of the big lie, and as we have seen across the country, it is a further weakening of the institutional strength of our democracy.”

The new provisions are last-minute additions to Senate Bill 7, a law that has drawn the wrath of Democratic and civil rights groups who have called it voter suppression since its first draft. The final version of the bill had not been posted online early Friday night – and was not made available to the public – but the Houston Chronicle obtained a copy.

No early voting after 9 p.m., eliminating the 24-hour and night-time voting centers that Houston and Austin have experimented with.

Voting while driving is prohibited.

Early voting on Sunday limited between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Requires driver’s license or social security number to request a postal vote.

Expressly prohibits the use of a postal ballot due to an illness that does not prevent someone from voting in person without assistance.

Forbidden drop boxes. All returned absentee ballots must be mailed or personally delivered to an election worker.

Prevents obstruction of partisan observers from observing election activities.

People who help three or more people who are not related to them get to the polls to vote will need to fill out papers and identify who they are.

Prevents people from helping one or more voters submit postal or postal vote requests to help a specific candidate or voting measure.

Lower the standard in an election race to make it easier for judges to overturn elections.

WHAT’S OUT

Provision for partisan observers to videotape at polling stations.

A plan to evenly distribute early voting sites that threatened to close some polling stations in black and Hispanic communities.


The compromise bill still contains a number of restrictions largely targeting large cities, particularly Houston, which has proposed new voting extensions during the pandemic. It was also the big cities that strongly supported President Joe Biden and gave Democrats their best performance in a presidential election in Texas in more than 40 years.

The bill includes the limitation of early voting hours and the ban on drive-thru voting, postal ballot boxes and the mass mailing of postal voting requests. It also adds other new provisions, many of which will complicate postal voting, such as requiring voters with disabilities to disclose the type of disability they have that makes them unable to vote in person.

Some of the provisions most severely criticized by opponents have been deleted. The bill no longer limits the number of polling stations and voting machines in large counties in Texas. Another provision that was removed would have allowed election observers to register voters receiving assistance if they believed they were witnesses of illegal activity.

Republican authors of the legislation – Chairman of the House Elections Committee, Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, and Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola – have continuously said their goal is to improve “integrity. election ”and ensure that only legally eligible voters vote.

“SB 7 is one of the most comprehensive and sensible electoral reform bills in Texas history,” they said in a joint statement. “There is nothing more fundamental to this democracy and our state than the integrity of our elections. … Even though the national media downplay the importance of electoral integrity, the Texas legislature has not bowed to the headlines or the signaling of corporate virtue.

In a statement on Saturday, Biden called the legislation “bad and not American” and referred to it in the same way as measures approved in other states. As of May 14, 14 states had enacted 22 new laws with provisions that make it harder for Americans to vote, putting the country on track to pass the highest number of voting restrictions since 2011, according to the Brennan Center. for Justice at New York University School. of the law.

“Today, Texas lawmakers introduced a bill that joins Georgia and Florida in advancing state law that attacks the sacred right to vote,” Biden said. “It’s part of an assault on democracy we’ve seen too often this year – and one that often disproportionately targets black and brown Americans.”

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo also denounced the bill as undemocratic.

“It’s heartbreaking. Worse than the original invoices. It can and must be stopped, ” Hidalgo wrote on Twitter. “All who believe in our democracy and in protecting the legacy of those who fought and died for it must speak up.”

Late night push draws a complaint

In a surprise move, the Texas Senate voted along party lines on Saturday night to abolish its usual rules and force a debate and vote on the bill after 10 p.m., despite Democrats’ objections. The 13 Senate Democrats expected the bill to be debated and voted on on Sunday until Hughes instead moved to pass the bill late on Saturday.

State Senator José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, asked why Republicans pushed to debate such an important bill in the dead of night on a holiday weekend when most Texans would not be able to connect. He noted that major changes have been made to the bill, leaving lawmakers with almost no time to communicate with election experts in their home towns and counties.

“How did you decide that 10pm tonight was the right time?” Menéndez asked Hughes. “If we’re going to get into a 100-page bill that affects how everyone in this state will vote, register to vote, run an election, doesn’t it look like we really don’t do it?” not when the public can? watch? “



While substantial changes were made in a private, closed-door session with House members, Hughes said he would give Senate members a private, closed-door briefing on all the changes – a point neither the public nor the media wouldn’t hear. Hughes said the public had the opportunity to weigh in on the bill in March during a public hearing.

Texas House is expected to introduce the bill on Sunday.

Although Texas had no reports of massive electoral fraud in 2020, Gov. Greg Abbott and Republican leaders in the Legislature insist they must make the state’s electoral systems more secure. For the GOP, this is achieving a top priority after the 2020 presidential election, when former President Donald Trump falsely claimed that widespread electoral fraud cost him the White House. Even in Texas, Trump said without evidence that his margin of victory was likely greater than what had been reported.

Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs resigned last week after the Republican-led Senate failed to confirm her appointment. A senior Hughs MP had publicly described the 2020 state election as “smooth and secure” as lawmakers prepared to push through legislation like SB 7.

Cain, who is a lawyer, was named chairman of the elections committee after traveling to Pennsylvania to assist Trump’s legal team in their efforts to overturn the results of last year’s presidential election. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also led an effort to reverse election results in four battlefield states with a Supreme Court bid that was immediately rejected.

“This is the same person who was trying to participate in the reversal of the 2020 election, who is now trying to make it easier to do the same in Texas,” Buser-Clancy said. “It is equally alarming.”

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