WASHINGTON, D.C. — State legislators in Texas have prefiled over 70 election and voting bills ahead of the state’s legislative session, which begins on Jan. 10, 2023. Prefiling is a standard part of the legislative process in several states that allows legislators to submit bills for consideration before the session begins. Although the vast majority of prefiled bills likely won’t become law, they give important clues about the priorities of lawmakers.
The majority of bills prefiled in Texas for the upcoming session are pro-voting measures, largely from Democrats. Among the 48 proposals, Democrats prefiled measures to create online and automatic voter registration programs, establish same-day registration, expand access to mail-in voting and loosen photo ID requirements to vote. However, these measures are unlikely to move forward given Republican control of both chambers of the Texas Legislature.
While Texas Republicans already enacted an omnibus voter suppression bill in 2021, they have continued to propose new anti-voting laws, prefiling 21 anti-voting bills for this legislative session. A major theme of this year’s proposals is criminalizing aspects of the election process and enhancing investigation and prosecution of election crimes. Republicans prefiled bills to increase penalties for illegal voting, allow candidates to trigger investigations of election officials, enable the Texas attorney general to maximally prosecute election crimes and even create a system of marshals to investigate violations of election law. These proposals come after Florida created a new elections crime unit and Georgia empowered its state bureau of investigation to investigate election crimes last year.
Other Republican proposals seek to further limit voting in the state. One bill would shorten the state’s in-person early voting period. Another would require voters to register with a political party before being able to vote in primary elections. Finally, one Republican lawmaker proposed requiring Texas to conduct separate elections for federal and state offices if the federal government ever passes comprehensive voting rules that contravene Texas law.