Lawmakers held a marathon committee meeting this week to hear from experts, election workers, and citizens about some of the troubling issues facing Texas elections.

Specifically, the Senate State Affairs Committee heard testimony that big tech companies like Google and Facebook are rigging the system to favor preferred candidates and causes.

Invited testimony included remarks from Dan Schneider with the Media Research Center, who testified, “These big tech platforms have a candidate of choice, and anything standing in the way of that candidate will be censored, and content opposing that candidate will be silenced.”

Following invited testimony on big tech, the committee unanimously moved to issue subpoenas to Google, Facebook, and other social media companies to uncover the extent to which these behemoths influence elections in Texas by alternatively elevating and suppressing content.

In addition to ascertaining how much technology impacts elections, the committee was asked to uncover vulnerabilities to foreign adversaries. In recent election cycles, election administrators have noted infiltration attempts by foreign actors.

During the hearing, the Secretary of State’s office confirmed that outside foreign actors cannot manipulate votes but that there are known issues with electronic poll books. This election infrastructure is necessary to conduct countywide polling, a practice that some are starting to re-evaluate.

Audits of multiple counties—including Eastland, Cameron, Harris, and Guadalupe—will be released this summer. One of the items being reviewed in these audits is the chain of custody procedures for securing ballots. According to testimony, there is a marked improvement, but these guidelines are still not being strictly followed.

One of the audited counties, Harris County, has had a run of mismanaged elections since moving to countywide polling, another issue that the committee took up and many conservative activists are seeking to end.

In addition to poorly run elections, countywide polling can lead to ballot styling errors and drive up the cost and complexity of election recounts and challenges, which are used to increase trust in election outcomes.

The committee also addressed illegal electioneering. During the 2024 primary election cycle, overt uses of public resources and time were spent advocating for specific candidates for office. Attorney General Ken Paxton and local officials are bringing cases against violators of the statute. Still, activists are calling on the legislature to beef up the protection of taxpayer funds.

School district leaders have been singled out as violators of these rules.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s interim charges included the call to “evaluate current laws prohibiting political subdivisions and public school districts from using government resources for illegal electioneering. Make recommendations to strengthen these laws and put a stop to illegal electioneering.”

Testifying before the panel, Christine Welborn with Advancing Integrity stated that “while some instances [of illegal electioneering] did cross the very clear line of electioneering in violation of state law, a large amount of activity fell in a gray area. The letter of the law was being kept while the spirit of the law was being flagrantly violated.”

Welborn called for loopholes in the election code to be closed and for these laws to be strictly enforced. 

An extended amount of time was also spent dealing with the legality of D8 and D9, cannabis derivative products that are being marketed and sold in Texas. Lawmakers are considering a crackdown on the substance.

Daniel Greer

Daniel Greer is the Director of Innovation for Texas Scorecard.