UPDATED May 28.
In the final days of the 87th Texas Legislative Session, election integrity advocates are still waiting to see what reforms the Republican-controlled Legislature will deliver this year.
Election integrity is a hot topic this session. After lawmakers failed to pass their priority election reforms in 2019, delegates at last year’s Republican Party of Texas convention chose election integrity as their top legislative priority for 2021.
The House and Senate each filed major “omnibus” bills covering a wide range of reforms to make voting more secure and deter fraud, along with dozens of individual measures. Gov. Greg Abbott gave the priority issue fast-track emergency status.
A Democrat-led alliance of special interests unleashed a coordinated attack demagoguing the GOP-priority voting legislation, but this year’s election reform priorities are much the same as in past sessions: clean up voter rolls, secure mail ballots, stop illegal voter assistance, make sure voting machines produce accurate results, and punish cheaters.
Of the 23 bills flagged as meeting the RPT’s election integrity policy goals, one has made it to the governor’s desk, and a handful of others are close to the finish line.
Senate Bill 7—GOP lawmakers’ top-tier comprehensive election reform and a major priority of the RPT and grassroots conservatives—is the biggest wild card.
The original version of SB 7, authored by State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R–Mineola) and passed by the Senate in April, contains dozens of reforms sought by election integrity advocates.
But the House completely stripped Hughes’ language and substituted the contents of House Bill 6 by State Rep. Briscoe Cain (R–Deer Park), a significantly different omnibus election bill. The House also added multiple amendments before passing its version of SB 7 a month after receiving the bill from the Senate.
A 10-member conference committee has just days to reconcile the differences between the Senate and House versions and come up with a final bill that both chambers must approve.
One well-connected activist says SB 7 may be in trouble. JoAnn Fleming, head of influential conservative advocacy group Grassroots America – We the People, warned in an email Thursday afternoon that, according to capitol insiders, “there is a complete breakdown between House and Senate conferees.”
They MUST reach agreement soon or we will have NO substantial Election Integrity bill passed this session! Failing to pass a bill to secure ALL legal votes is unacceptable!
House Bill 574 by State Rep. Greg Bonnen (R–Friendswood) is the first (and so far, only) RPT-priority election integrity bill to finally pass both chambers. The bill creates two new election fraud offenses, intentionally counting invalid votes and failing to count valid votes, and makes them a second-degree felony.
HB 574 was sent to the governor’s desk on May 20 and will become law on May 30 if Abbott fails to sign or veto the bill.
Senate Bill 155 by State Sen. Charles Perry (R–Lubbock) adds the attorney general to the list of officials who review noncitizens and nonresidents excused from jury service, to identify and remove ineligible people from voter rolls.
The House passed an amended version of SB 155 on May 18. On Thursday, the Senate called for a conference committee and appointed Perry and four other Republicans as conferees.
Two RPT-priority election bills advanced this week:
Senate Bill 598 by State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R–Brenham) is a carryover from last session that’s drawn big bipartisan support. It requires all Texas voting systems to produce auditable paper trails by September 2026, initiates risk-limiting audits, and offers state funds to help counties buy or upgrade equipment. It also confirms that voting systems may not be capable of connecting to a network or permitting wireless communication.
SB 598 passed the House on Wednesday with overwhelming support (136-8) and should soon head to the governor.
Senate Bill 1113 by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston) authorizes the secretary of state’s office to withhold state funding from county election officials who fail to follow rules for canceling registrations of ineligible voters.
SB 1113, one of the “Integrity 7” bills filed by the former Harris County voter registrar, passed the House on Monday, and the Senate concurred with the amended bill. It should soon go to the governor.
HB 2283 is not an RPT priority, as the millions from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (known as “ZuckBucks”) funneled to select election offices last fall hadn’t become an issue prior to the party’s 2020 convention. But a ban on using third-party money to administer elections is considered a key election integrity reform.
The bill limits private donations to county officials for use in administering elections to $1,000 unless approved by the secretary of state, governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker.
The Senate passed an amended version of HB 2283 on Tuesday, so the House must approve the changes before the bill goes to the governor’s desk.
House Bill 3276 by State Rep. Tan Parker (R–Flower Mound) would secure voted ballots being tabulated at central counting stations with livestreamed video surveillance systems. It includes a funding mechanism to help counties pay for the security systems and makes the surveillance optional if funding is not available.
The RPT priority is on the Senate’s local and uncontested calendar.
All other grassroots election integrity policy priorities are dead, unless they get included in the final version of SB 7.
May 28 is the last day the House can act on Senate amendments. The deadline for lawmakers to approve bills coming out of conference committees is May 30. The last day of the regular legislative session is May 31.
Texas Scorecard is tracking the progress of key election integrity bills in the House and Senate through the end of session.