One GOP-priority election bill has made it to the governors desk; a handful of others are close to the finish line, while Senate Bill 7 remains a wild card.
In the final days of the 87th Texas Legislative Session, election integrity advocates are still waiting to see what reforms the Republican-controlled Legislature will deliver this year.
Election integrity is a hot topic this session. After lawmakers failed to pass their priority election reforms in 2019, delegates at last years Republican Party of Texas convention chose election integrity as their top legislative priority for 2021.
The House and Senate each filed major omnibus bills covering a wide range of reforms to make voting more secure and deter fraud, along with dozens of individual measures. Gov. Greg Abbott gave the priority issue fast-track emergency status.
A Democrat-led alliance of special interests unleashed a coordinated attack demagoguing the GOP-priority voting legislation, but this years election reform priorities are much the same as in past sessions: clean up voter rolls, secure mail ballots, stop illegal voter assistance, make sure voting machines produce accurate results, and punish cheaters.
Of the 23 bills flagged as meeting the RPTs election integrity policy goals, one has made it to the governors desk, and a handful of others are close to the finish line.
Senate Bill 7GOP lawmakers top-tier comprehensive election reform and a major priority of the RPT and grassroots conservativesis the biggest wild card.
The original version of SB 7, authored by State Sen. Bryan Hughes (RMineola) and passed by the Senate in April, contains dozens of reforms sought by election integrity advocates.
But the House completely stripped Hughes language and substituted the contents of House Bill 6 by State Rep. Briscoe Cain (RDeer Park), a significantly different omnibus election bill. The House also added multiple amendments before passing its version of SB 7 a month after receiving the bill from the Senate.
A 10-member conference committee has just days to reconcile the differences between the Senate and House versions and come up with a final bill that both chambers must approve.
House Bill 574 by State Rep. Greg Bonnen (RFriendswood) is the first (and so far, only) RPT-priority election integrity bill to finally pass both chambers. The bill creates two new election fraud offenses, intentionally counting invalid votes and failing to count valid votes, and makes them a second-degree felony.
HB 574 was sent to the governors desk on May 20 and will become law on May 30 if Abbott fails to sign or veto the bill.
Senate Bill 155 by State Sen. Charles Perry (RLubbock) adds the attorney general to the list of officials who review noncitizens and nonresidents excused from jury service, to identify and remove ineligible people from voter rolls.
The House passed an amended version of SB 155 on May 18 that the Senate must approve before the bill goes to the governors desk.
Two RPT-priority election bills advanced this week:
Senate Bill 598 by State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (RBrenham) is a carryover from last session thats drawn big bipartisan support. It requires all Texas voting systems to produce auditable paper trails by September 2026, initiates risk-limiting audits, and offers state funds to help counties buy or upgrade equipment. It also confirms that voting systems may not be capable of connecting to a network or permitting wireless communication.
SB 598 passed the House on Wednesday with overwhelming support (136-8) and should soon head to the governor.
Senate Bill 1113 by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (RHouston) authorizes the secretary of states office to withhold state funding from county election officials who fail to follow rules for canceling registrations of ineligible voters.
SB 1113, one of the Integrity 7 bills filed by the former Harris County voter registrar, passed the House on Monday, but the Senate needs to concur with the amended bill before it goes to the governor.
House Bill 2283, authored by State Rep. Phil King (RWeatherford) to keep outside cash from influencing how Texas elections are run, also advanced this week.
HB 2283 is not an RPT priority, as the millions from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (known as ZuckBucks) funneled to select election offices last fall hadnt become an issue prior to the partys 2020 convention. But a ban on using third-party money to administer elections is considered a key election integrity reform.
The bill limits private donations to county officials for use in administering elections to $1,000 unless approved by the secretary of state, governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker.
The Senate passed an amended version of HB 2283 on Tuesday, so the House must approve the changes before the bill goes to the governors desk.
House Bill 3276 by State Rep. Tan Parker (RFlower Mound) would secure voted ballots being tabulated at central counting stations with livestreamed video surveillance systems. It includes a funding mechanism to help counties pay for the security systems and makes the surveillance optional if funding is not available.
The RPT priority is on the Senates local and uncontested calendar.
All other grassroots election integrity policy priorities are dead, unless they get included in the final version of SB 7.
May 28 is the last day the House can act on Senate amendments. The deadline for lawmakers to approve bills coming out of conference committees is May 30. The last day of the regular legislative session is May 31.
Texas Scorecard is tracking the progress of key election integrity bills in the House and Senate through the end of session.