After hours of debate Saturday night and into Sunday morning, the Texas Senate approved a revised version of Republicans’ comprehensive election reform, Senate Bill 7, on a party-line 18-13 vote. The bill will be considered by the House this afternoon, just hours ahead of the deadline for approving legislation.
“We want elections to be secure and accessible,” said State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R–Mineola), who authored SB 7 and ushered the high-priority bill through the upper chamber’s legislative process.
The revised bill called a conference committee report was a mashup of Hughes’ SB 7 and the lower chamber’s priority election integrity omnibus bill, House Bill 6 by State Rep. Briscoe Cain (R–Deer Park).
Because the House and Senate passed significantly different versions of the bill, a 10-member conference committee headed by Hughes and Cain hashed out a compromise that requires final approval from both chambers before going to the governor’s desk.
The 67-page conference committee report also includes provisions not in either chamber’s version of SB 7, most notably a voter ID requirement for voting by mail that aligns with in-person voting. That required Hughes to first get approval of an “out of bounds” resolution before the Senate could debate and vote on the revised bill, which cannot be amended.
That resulted in an all-night session where Democrats spent hours speaking against the bill, cheered on by President Joe Biden, who released a statement Saturday calling SB 7 “an assault on democracy.”
SB 7 is eligible for consideration by the House at 4:50 p.m. today, the final day for lawmakers to approve bills coming out of conference committees.
If passed by the House, the bill will go to the governor, who has indicated he will sign “robust” election integrity legislation including SB 7.
For months, Democrats have led a coordinated attack demagoguing the GOP-priority voting legislation and threatening to sue, 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.
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 bills covering a wide range of reforms sought by election integrity advocates to make voting more secure and deter fraud, along with dozens of individual measures, and Gov. Greg Abbott gave the priority issue fast-track emergency status.
A handful of other RPT-priority bills have passed or are still active with one day left for lawmakers to act on pending legislation:
House Bill 574 by State Rep. Greg Bonnen (R–Friendswood) 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.
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, was sent to the governor May 29.
Senate Bill 598 by State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R–Brenham), a carryover from last session, 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. A similar paper-trail provision is included in SB 7. SB 598 passed the Senate unanimously on April 12 and passed the House on a near-unanimous vote May 26.
Senate Bill 155 by State Sen. Charles Perry (R–Lubbock), a companion to RPT-priority House Bill 2339, adds the attorney general to the list of officials who review noncitizens and nonresidents excused from jury service, to help identify and remove ineligible people from voter rolls. The House passed an amended version of SB 155 on May 18 that went to a conference committee. The bill is eligible for consideration by the House at 5:20 p.m. today.
Texas Scorecard is tracking the progress of key election integrity bills in the House and Senate through the end of the regular Legislative Session on May 31.