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Public Testifies on Bills to Protect Voters, Poll Watchers, Mail Ballots

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Several Republican-priority bills to protect Texas elections and make voting more secure received public hearings last week—along with measures to prevent Democrats from codifying lax voting processes that were temporarily implemented or attempted in 2020, using the Chinese coronavirus as an excuse.

Election integrity is a top legislative priority of the Texas GOP and the only one also declared an emergency item by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who has publicly endorsed “robust” election reform legislation.

Dozens of bills to improve election security and voter confidence have been introduced in the Republican-controlled House and Senate.

Last Thursday, the House Elections Committee, chaired by State Rep. Briscoe Cain (R–Deer Park), heard public testimony on nearly a dozen measures aimed at preventing voter intimidation, protecting poll watchers, securing mail-in ballots, and more.

Illegal Voter Assistance

House Bill 611 would clarify what constitutes illegal voter assistance and increase the penalty for multiple offenders.

Assistants already take an oath not to influence a voter’s choices. HB 611 by State Rep. Valoree Swanson (R–Spring) would add that the assistant “did not pressure or intimidate the voter into choosing me to provide assistance.”

Alan Vera, head of the Harris County Republican Party’s Ballot Security Committee, testified in favor of the bill. He said it would address a commonly observed problem of “voter ambush”—political operatives intercepting voters in polling-place parking lots and coercing them into accepting unsolicited assistance.

Under the law, voters are supposed to ask for help, not have it forced on them.

The bill would also increase the penalty for someone who illegally influences or intimidates three or more voters in a single election from a Class A misdemeanor to a state jail felony.

Poll Watchers

House Bill 1724 by State Rep. Dennis Paul (R–Houston) would “further clarify and define” the role of poll watchers.

Paul said while

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