House panel approves mail-in vote fraud bills
Party-line votes advance item on governor’s agenda.
The House Elections Committee on Monday voted 4-2 along party lines to approve Senate Bill 5, already cleared by the Senate. The bill by Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, would require a signature verification process for early ballots, notifica- tion of rejected ones within a month after an election and a process for correcting errors. Punishment for committing mail-in voter fraud in some cases could reach $4,000 and up to a year in jail. Hancock and bill supporters have said the bill would protect the most vulnerable voters: seniors and people with disabilities.
Democrats Celia Israel of Austin and Ron Reynolds of Missouri City voted no.
For Texans to be eligible to vote by mail, they must be 65 or older, have a disabil- ity, be outside their county on Election Day or during the early voting period or in jail but still eligible to vote in general, according to the secretary of state’s office.
The committee also voted 4-2 to approve House Bill 184, by Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, which has similar mail-in ballot fraud protections as Hancock’s legislation. One major difference: the House bill would abolish HB 658 — passed during the regular session earlier this year — which gives voting priority to people with mobility issues and makes it easier for people in residen- tial care facilities to vote by bringing ballots and an elec- tion official to their location — if at least five voters living there request a ballot. Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law in June, setting it to take effect on Sept. 1.
The panel also approved 4-2 HB 96, by Valoree Swan- son, R-Spring, which would allow signature verification committees to compare signatures on carrier envelope certificates to any two or more other signatures by the voter “within the preceding six years and on file with the general custodian of election records or voter registrar.”
Reducing mail-in ballot fraud is one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s 20 special session items. As lawmakers look for a solution, Dallas County is prosecuting a mail-bal- lot fraud case in which 700 ballots were marked as suspicious.
State Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, seen in May, authored House Bill 184, which cleared the elections panel.