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The Texas Senate on Monday, after consideration of 14 floor amendments, passed out Senate Bill 9, the upper chamber’s priority legislation addressing voter fraud from ballot by mail.

The legislation, authored by State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R–Mineola), reached the Senate floor having passed out of the Senate Committee on State Affairs on party lines, with only Democrat State Sens. Judith Zaffirini (Laredo) and Eddie Lucio (Brownsville) opposing the measure.

Several amendments were brought forward for members’ consideration, including an amendment by the author; Hughes refrained from calling it a “perfecting amendment,” saying it “improves the bill” as it would audit the applications of registrants, as well as remove the box automatically checked for citizenship by the voter registrar. Another amendment by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston) increases the number of polling locations and their accessibility to voters in counties with a population of 1 million people or more. State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood) amended the bill to require verification of the zeroing out of a voting machine or ballot box by an election judge prior to an election and included another amendment that would prohibit devices with internet accessibility from a central counting station.

Texas Scorecard previously outlined the bill, as originally written, as follows:

SB 9 doesn’t impose any new limits on who can vote by mail; it simply seeks to verify mail ballot voters’ eligibility and discourage cheating. It also targets illegal assistance, both with mail ballots and at the polls.

Under the bill, voters claiming disability on their applications to vote by mail would sign a specific statement affirming their eligibility. It would require more documentation from people who assist voters with their ballots and allow watchers observing the ballot verification process to inspect those documents.

Hughes’ bill also adds voter registration protections, authorizing the secretary of state to fully participate in the interstate voter registration crosscheck program.

The bill would extend the window for prosecuting election felonies from two to five years, aid enforcement efforts, and upgrade offenses of unlawfully assisting a voter and providing false information on a registration application to state jail felonies.

The bill was included in Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s list of legislative priorities in early March. It is one of a shrinking number of the 30 proposals remaining on the call for senators to consider on the floor of the upper chamber.

 

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