A bill to overhaul Texas elections is now over. After Texas Democrats walked out of the state capitol on Sunday night. It denied that the Republican House would hold a quorum as the clock ticked on during the legislative session.
Governor Greg Abbott immediately notified lawmakers that he would call a special meeting for the bill to pass. and told a local radio station on Thursday that the meeting could take place before the fall.
At this point, it’s not entirely clear how electoral reform lawmakers will argue and vote when they return to Austin. But the final bill, known as SB7, provides clear indications of the GOP̵7;s priorities. Lawmakers have already suggested they make changes to the bill, and Democrats have pledged to keep it strong. pressure on this bill in the coming weeks
Here’s what’s in the SB7:
Early voting time limit
The bill has limited the time to vote early. which took place after Harris County, home of Houston. Vote was offered 24 hours in advance of a number of November elections. The bill would allow counties to can be scheduled But early voting can only be done between 6:00 AM and 9:00 PM.
The bill would delay Sunday’s vote. This is the time black churches typically use for Souls to the Polls events until 1:00 p.m., but that could change in future versions, Republican State Representative Travis Clardy told NPR on Wednesday. Tuesday that it was not what lawmakers had intended.
“I think there is a call it a mistake if you will. What should be 11 is actually typed as 1,” Clardy said.
The bill has extended early voting hours. Weekday advance voting takes place nine hours at one of the county’s primary voting locations. instead of just the office hours of the county clerk.
A county with at least 30,000 people is required to propose at least 12 hours of voting time each day of the week during the final week of early voting at the primary ballot point early in the morning, at least 12 hours on Saturday. last week of early voting and at least 6 hours in the last week. Currently, those requirements only apply to counties with a population of at least 100,000. The bill also increases mandatory Sunday hours from five to six.
Drive-thru voting is prohibited.
The bill seeks to ban drive-through voting, which Harris County used during the November 2020 and last May elections. Judge dismisses pre-election lawsuit filed by four Republicans This attempted to prevent officials from counting about 127,000 ballots at drive-through ballot venues.
New requirements for voting by mail
Texas has the most stringent mail-in voting requirements in the country. in ballot by mail Voters must be 65 years of age or older, handicapped, out of bounds on Election Day and early voting. or in prison but has other rights
The bill requires voters applying for ballots by mail to provide their driver’s license number. ID number social security number or a statement confirming that they do not have one of the required forms of identification. Texas currently uses signature matching to verify identity in absentee ballot applications. under this offer The signature review committee will be able to view the known signatures voters have on file with the county clerk. than to have signed two or more within the past six years.
Voters with disabilities requesting ballots by mail will be eligible if they “cannot” appear at the polling place by “Need personal assistance or harm the health of a voter” voters must disclose that they are due to illness, injury, medical problem. or a physical or mental disability The current requirement for voters with disabilities is that they must have “Sickness or physical condition” that prevents them from appearing at polling stations. “without the need for personal assistance or harming the health of voters.”
The proposed bill also states that Ballots returned by hand must “Received by Election Officials at time of delivery” Self-return options increased in 2020 due to the epidemic. But Texas normally only allows voters to submit ballots that are not in the county elections office on election day.
Government officials are prohibited from submitting unsolicited ballot applications.
The bill would allow government officials to mail voting applications to unsolicited voters as a felony. Harris County seeks to send ballot applications to all voters ahead of the general election. But the Texas Supreme Court blocked Harris County, noting that the state was not trying to stop the county when officials. “Distribute unsolicited applications to Harris County voters over the age of 65” in early 2020.
The bill also constitutes a crime for government officials to request ballots by mail. Provide public funding for third parties to distribute applications by mail. or fill out any part of the application in advance This bill clearly allows posting of voting applications online.
Decrease the standard of overturning elections due to fraud.
This bill contains a provision that if the number of votes “Voting wrongly” in elections “Equal to or greater than the number of votes required to change the outcome of the election. The court may invalidate the election without attempting to determine. “How each voter voted.” The bill said those challenging the outcome would have to prove the allegations. This means that there is a 50% chance that the claim will be true.
This would lower the electoral subversion standards in the state. A court in Texas previously found that contestants challenging the election results had the burden of “Proven with clear and convincing evidence that there are voting irregularities and have a significant impact on election outcomes.”
Added requirements for those who help voters.
The bill has added requirements for people who help voters with disabilities or voters who cannot read the language in which ballots are printed. The person providing such assistance must fill out a form with contact information. relationship with voters, and whether the contributor receives any compensation or benefit from the candidate or campaign;
Aids are required to take additional oaths to confirm that voters are eligible for assistance and who assist voters. It “does not support, pressure or force” voters to choose them for assistance. The oath must be punished by perjury.
If someone drives to vote The bill states that a person can only be in a car with voters. if that person is able to assist voters If someone drives three or more voters They will have to fill out a form with their contact information and see if they help voters. There are some exceptions for close relatives. The bill allows poll viewers to observe voting in cars.
create provisions New “Harvest of Votes”
This bill creates a new criminal offense for those procuring or offering. intentionally “vote harvesting services” in exchange for benefits or compensation “Vote Collection Service” means interaction with at least one voter. “related to the official ballot ballot by mail or an application for a ballot by mail for the purpose of submitting votes for a candidate for a specific election or measure.”
Republicans say the measure is designed to prevent potential fraud. But civil rights groups, including Texas’ ACLU, said it could affect normal campaign activities.
Other criminal penalties
There are other criminal penalties. for not counting the correct score Preventing Voters from Using Legal Ballots or providing false information to voters with the intent to prevent eligible voters from voting Changing ballots would also be a crime so as not to “reflect the intent of the voters”, these penalties would be a crime. But it would be considered a criminal offense if committed by a person performing official duties as an electoral officer.
The bill gives new powers to poll viewers. Election observers cannot They can “reject free movement” when electoral activity takes place. and must be able to sit or stand “Close enough to be seen and heard” by election officials.
It would be a crime for election officials to deliberately refuse to allow spectators to vote in a voting facility. The draft law also makes “obstruct the observer’s view” or place the observer away from activities that would “Make observations reasonably ineffective” if observers believe they have been unlawfully intercepted. They can seek help from the court. The bill also requires election observers to swear not to. “Hinder the voting process or harass voters”
The bill also allows election observers to observe all activities related to polling station closures and monitor the transfer of election documents from their polling place to regional scheduling centres.
Earlier versions of the Legislature’s election bill made it more difficult to remove disruptive election viewers and allow viewers to record voter records. These were not included in the final version of SB7. But it’s not clear if he’ll be back in a special session.
CCTV systems are required for large counties.
A county with at least 100,000 people will need a CCTV system that records all areas where ballots are stored. from the time the ballot is submitted until the return of the constituencies is inspected. It’s also necessary to have a live camera broadcast. Counties with less than 100,000 people have the option to set up these systems.
Requires judges to inform offenders about voting eligibility status
The bill also requires judges to tell any adult convicted of a crime how it affects voting rights. A person convicted of a crime cannot vote. except that person’s sentence “Fully released” includes parole or probation. or if the person has been pardoned The provision was added in response to the conviction of Crystal Mason, who served five years in prison for interim voting in the 2016 election, while she was released under supervision. The Texas Court of Appeals agreed to hear her case at the end of March.