Few issues drew as much attention this year as election integrity.
Well before questions about the 2020 presidential election captured headlines, the Republican Party of Texas and grassroots activists across the state decided making Texas elections more secure would be a top legislative priority for 2021, after lawmakers failed to pass proposed election reforms in prior sessions.
In response, leaders in the Republican-run Legislature proposed dozens of reforms that addressed previously unresolved election issues as well as voters’ concerns about problems during the 2020 election.
Lawmakers spent hundreds of hours debating how to make Texas elections more secure, accurate, and transparent.
The debate even made national news when quorum-busting Democrat lawmakers fled Austin for D.C. on a publicity trip to temporarily block a vote on major election reforms.
Texas Scorecard tracked the progress of key election bills throughout the regular legislative session and continued covering election integrity wins and losses during the three special sessions.
Texans’ biggest election integrity win of the year was passing a comprehensive reform bill.
Senate Bill 1 added dozens of provisions to the Texas Election Code that voting integrity advocates say make it “easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
The Republican priority finally passed during the second special session and took effect December 2, though Democrats are suing to block the bill’s commonsense (and popular) measures, like requiring an ID number on mail-in ballots.
Lawmakers also passed a handful of key election bills during the regular session, which took effect September 1.
One of the most significant is a ban on using private third-party money to fund election administration. The ban was prompted by millions in outside cash from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (known as “Zuck Bucks”) funneled to select local election offices last fall, which had an unprecedented influence on voting in the 2020 presidential election.
Another key reform—an RPT priority carried over from last session that drew bipartisan support—requires Texas voting systems to produce auditable paper trails and initiates risk-limiting audits.
Lawmakers also passed a bill creating two new election fraud felonies: “knowingly or intentionally” counting invalid votes or refusing to count valid votes.
One of the big letdowns for election integrity advocates was GOP lawmakers’ failure to pass a comprehensive reform bill during the regular legislative session. Leaders in the two chambers put forward significantly different versions, and House Republicans dragged out deliberations, allowing Democrats to demonize the bills in the media for months before killing the legislation in the final hours of the session.
Another unexpected loss was the still-unexplained move by House Republicans to lower the penalty for illegal voting from a felony to a misdemeanor—the exact opposite of what grassroots conservatives told lawmakers they wanted.
Lawmakers also disappointed election integrity advocates by failing to pass legislation ordering a “forensic audit” of the 2020 election or allowing citizen-initiated audits of future election irregularities.
In September, the Texas Secretary of State’s office announced it was conducting a “full and comprehensive forensic audit” of the 2020 election in four large Texas counties—though it failed to satisfy those asking for a more complete review.
A month later, newly appointed SOS John Scott gave Texans a progress report on the audit.
Texans are still waiting to see the results.
Election integrity advocates are already regrouping for the 2023 legislative session.
Texas Republicans are also planning ahead to ensure the integrity of 2022 elections by training local citizens to effectively monitor and participate in all phases of the election process.