Election bills among priority of 87th Texas Legislative session

Editor's Note: This story was prepared for print on May 7, and bills may have advanced in status since that time.

Local lawmakers Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, and Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, have said among their priorities in the 87th Texas Legislature are a series of bills aimed at election integrity.

Toth authored, coauthored or sponsored 16 bills pertaining to elections for the Texas House of Representatives in this session, which ends May 31

“We want to make sure that every eligible person can vote,” Toth said. “We do not want to see anything stand in the way of an eligible person to vote, but we want to make it hard for people to cheat.”

Bills target voting security


Among the bills Toth worked on for the legislative session making progress as of early May is House Bill 1725, which would ban in-person delivery of mail ballots. As of May 7, the bill had been sent to legislative calendars on April 23, where it is scheduled to be considered by the Legislature.

Toth said he wants to emphasize the difference between curbside and drive-thru voting across the state.

“Curbside voting is legal,” Toth said. “You cannot do drive-thru voting though. The difference between the two is that with drive-thru, you can hand a voter tablet to a bus full of people ... that can be influenced on how they are going to vote. It completely takes away the secrecy and privacy of voting.”

Toth added he believes a curbside vote is different because it is more limited in scope.

“We just want to make sure it is done with integrity and there is no cheating,” Toth said.

Among the bills authored by Creighton is Senate Bill 7, which proposes new election regulations including the voter registration process, voting by mail and election security relating to polling place location and facilities, voting hours and ballot auditing. According to the bill, it would make unlawful voting or registration a criminal offense.

Harris County saw record voter turnout during the November election amid some elections operations that would run afoul of SB 7’s new requirements. County Judge Lina Hidalgo said March 15 she opposed the bill. Gov. Greg Abbott has expressed support for SB 7 and other election reform measures.

SB 7 was considered in public hearing on April 29, then amended and scheduled for a vote on May 7, after press time. Creighton could not be reached for comment before press time May 7.

Several of Creighton’s bills pertaining to voting and elections—Senate Bills 1110 through 1116—were jointly authored with Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, and several other Republican senators.

SB 1111, for example, would require voters to produce evidence of their residence at the address where they are registered to vote if requested by the voter registrar.

“The integrity of the voter roll is paramount to the entire electoral process, and we must restore confidence in the voter roll for future elections for all Texans,” Bettencourt said in a March 8 statement.

Among other Senate bills, SB 1114 would require voters to present proof of citizenship if their citizenship status was previously questioned through the jury selection process or in vehicle registration records. The bill was considered in a public hearing May 4.

Voter perspective

Steve Leakey, president of the nonprofit Voter Awareness Council in Montgomery County, which aims to educate Montgomery County voters and increase turnout, said he believes keeping elections fair is essential.

“They need to be simple and straightforward for registered voters to vote, and we need to make sure whatever efforts people might make to vote improperly or illegally is blocked,” Leakey said. “Without question, extended early voting days and proper use of mail-in ballots where people have legitimate needs to do that ... is very, very important.”

Leakey said from his perspective in Montgomery County, the current system works very well, and tampering with it and making it more complicated does not make sense, just as it does not make sense to make things easier for the potential of fraudulent votes.

“I know there are a lot of complexities, particularly in Harris County, that are being considered. ... In general there is an effort for election reform across the country that is misrepresented across the press,” Leakey said. “Some people believe some of these bills in the Texas Legislature are going to make it harder to vote, but I am not aware of any functions or features that would confirm that concern.”

Meanwhile, organizations such as MOVE Texas, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization which operates in cities including Houston, released a statement April 29 condemning SB 7.

“[SB 7] will disproportionately restrict the safety, security and accessibility of all eligible voters but especially that of marginalized communities and deny young, disabled, Black and brown voters their voice in the rising Texas electorate,” Communications Director Charlie Bonner said in a statement.

Ben Thompson contributed to this report.
By Andrew Christman
Andrew joined Community Impact Newspaper in early 2019 after moving from Indiana. He is a 2015 graduate from Indiana State University, where he received degrees in English and journalism. He has written for a number of small town publications throughout his career as a reporter.


MOST RECENT

(Courtesy PetSuites)
PetSuites facility coming soon to Rayford Road

PetSuites is expected to open in August 2021.

Texas Medical Center coronavirus updates: Hospital system reports 2.2% positivity rate, down 13% year to date

COVID-19 patient numbers at medical center hospitals are down to 309 from the over 2,000 patients those same hospitals were housing in January.

The text of General Order No. 3, which Gordon Granger issued from Galveston in June 1865 to explicitly liberate enslaved Black Texans, runs across the bottom of the mural. (Colleen Ferguson/Community Impact Newspaper)
‘I am filled’: Houston-Galveston area celebrates first Juneteenth as federal holiday

See how local policymakers, historians, artists and philanthropists honored the Juneteenth holiday at its birthplace with the dedication of a 5,000-square-foot mural.

The Township has until Aug. 16 to decide whether to put incorporation on the ballot or not for the November 2021 election. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Woodlands Area Chamber to vote on resolution recommending delay of incorporation vote

The resolution will come to the full board of The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce for a vote on July 2.

The Texas Central rail connection from Dallas to Houston will feature a bullet train similar to this one. (Courtesy Texas Central Partners/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas Supreme Court declines to review high-speed rail case, freeing company up to use eminent domain

Texas Central, the company looking to build a 236-mile high-speed rail line connecting Houston and Dallas, has been given a big win in an ongoing legal battle over whether the company is legally recognized as a "railroad company" under state law.

There will be various events across the Houston area celebrating the Fourth of July, including League City's Fireworks Extravaganza. (Courtesy of League City)
12 Fourth of July weekend events, celebrations to attend in the Greater Houston area

Here are 12 Fourth of July weekend events throughout the Houston region.

(Courtesy Bojangles)
Bojangles announces three Houston locations

The fast food chain offers fried chicken and biscuits, and will be coming to The Woodlands, Humble and Conroe.

The main building for The Peach Orchard Venue was modeled after a former barn on the property. (Andrew Christman/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Peach Orchard Venue blends indoor and outdoor space with history

When she found the location that would become The Peach Orchard Venue, owner Lara Haddad Guerra said it was love at first sight.

America's ER Medical center
32784 FM 2978, Magnolia
(Ally Bolender/Community Impact Newspaper)
17 clinics, emergency rooms to seek treatment at in The Woodlands

Here are some of the locations in The Woodlands area where standalone emergency room and urgent care facilities are available.

Services, specializations separate these 11 hospitals in The Woodlands area

Here's a look at some of the hospitals and medical centers serving The Woodlands area.

Don Norrell presented information about water and sewer utilities in post-incorporation scenarios at the June 17 meeting of The Woodlands Township board of directors. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Woodlands Township resumes incorporation study planning meetings

Incorporation planning meetings resumed June 17 in The Woodlands Township after being placed on hold in March 2020.