WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday night, the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee advanced Senate Bill 9, a new bill to make certain types of illegal voting a felony, roughly a month after the Texas’ omnibus voter suppression bill reduced the penalty. In late August, a House amendment to Senate Bill 1 made illegal voting a Class A misdemeanor; S.B. 9 restores the penalty to a second-degree felony. The maximum punishment for a second-degree felony is 20 years in prison, compared to one year for a Class A misdemeanor. A Texas woman named Crystal Mason was sentenced to five years in prison for casting a provisional ballot while on parole, a high profile example of the type of election crimes, often committed unknowingly, covered by this law.
Last Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) added the topic as a new agenda item for the Legislature’s current special session. House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) rejected the request, releasing a statement that Senate Bill 1 was adopted with “several thoughtful amendments” and that his chamber will remain focused on redistricting. On Friday, the Senate moved forward with Gov. Abbott’s request with Sen. Bryan Hughes (R) introducing S.B. 9. The bill now goes to a Senate vote and Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick (R) indicated his intention to get the bill passed this week.