WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ahead of the start of the 2023 regular legislative session, state legislators in Texas filed over 70 voting and elections bills, from proposals expanding mail-in voting to bills creating special election marshals to investigate purported voter fraud. Over the course of the session, the number of introduced bills ballooned to over 190.
On Monday, May 29, the regular session came to an end. During its five-month session, the Legislature passed seven anti-voting bills and sent five pro-voting bills to Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) desk.
In response to some Election Day problems last November, the Legislature approved and sent Abbott several anti-voting bills that target elections in Houston’s Harris County specifically:
- House Bill 1750 eliminates the position of election administrator and
- Senate Bill 1933 gives the secretary of state authority to take over election administration.
Republicans also passed bills facilitating the state’s exit from the data organization ERIC, raising the penalty for illegal voting to a felony, requiring a “wet signature” (meaning pen on paper) on mail-in ballot envelopes and changing how Texas’ electoral votes are awarded.
A few pro-voting measures also made it through both chambers, including bills that ease voting for individuals with disabilities, add uniform early voting hours in all counties and allow voters to correct some mistakes on mail-in ballots through an online portal.
Importantly, several more egregious anti-voting bills that were championed by conservatives cleared the Texas Senate before dying in the House. These included the proposal to create a system of election marshals, letting the state rerun elections in Harris County, eliminating the countywide polling program and a proof of citizenship requirement to vote.
However, we may not have seen the last of these bills as Texas Republicans could revive these measures during any special session. Already, Abbott has called a special session focused on property taxes and border security, and he suggested more could be on the way.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) asked Abbott for additional special sessions to consider bills that would end countywide polling programs, mandate election audits and require a timely vote count.