In a 17 to 12 vote Texas senators passed a bill Monday designed to crack down on voter fraud, which has drawn sharp criticism from some, including the League of Women Voters.
The League and others opposed to it said it is overreaching and could infringe on voters rights and penalize voters for minor, unintentional mistakes.
The bill is aimed at reducing voter fraud by increasing criminal penalties for fraud and illegal voting, but opponents said the bill does more harm than good for most Texas voters.
Senate Bill 9, aims to maintain the integrity of elections.
“This bill specifically is trying to make sure that voters are protected and their votes are protected,” Young County Election Administrator Lauren Sullivan said.
SB 9 was authored by First District Senator Bryan Hughes of Mineola and will increase the penalty for voter fraud from a class-A misdemeanor to a state jail felony.
“Voter fraud is one person pretending to be someone else, election fraud is when someone comes in and tries to change the number of votes cast in an election,” Sullivan said.
While a class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000, a person can face up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000 for a state jail felony.
With these big changes, one non-partisan organization is speaking out against the bill ever becoming law.
“Our 8000 members and supporters stand firmly against legislation like SB 9 that limits citizens’ votings rights,” League of Women Voters of Texas President Grace Chimene said.
The League said voters who make a simple mistake on the registration form could end up in jail and they said it would also give law enforcement complete immunity for committing election-related crimes while conducting undercover investigations or stings.
30th District State Senator Pat Fallon was among those who voted for the bill.
“Why I supported SB 9 is that it leaves a paper trail, and it gives you an affirmation that if there is an audit, or if there is a recount, we can ensure that the machines are doing what they are supposed to be doing,” Fallon said.
If passed by the house and signed by the governor, the law would take effect on September 1.
The bill will need a final vote before the house takes up debate on a companion bill.
For details on SB 9, follow this link.