Last month, Texas GOP delegates met and decided priorities for the next legislative session. The second priority of the eight chosen is to Secure Texas Elections, with ten reforms that Republicans would like to see the legislature pass.

Requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote

Current federal and state laws prevent noncitizens from voting, but it has happened under certain circumstances. One such loophole was addressed in State Sen. Brian Birdwell’s proposed amendment to the Texas Constitution last session. He highlighted that municipalities in the states of California, Maryland, New York, and Vermont have passed policies to allow noncitizens of the United States to vote in local elections.

Birdwell’s statement on intent for the proposal reads, “The Texas Constitution does not explicitly limit Texas noncitizen voting in state or local elections. Statutorily, an individual must be a registered voter to vote in Texas elections and citizenship is a current requirement for voter registration.” Thus, Republicans want to amend the Texas Constitution to ensure that Texas municipalities cannot implement such policies by maintaining that only citizens have the right to vote.

The amendment did not receive enough votes to pass on the floor of the House.

Requiring the counties and the Secretary of State to update the voter rolls at least quarterly

According to the Texas Secretary of State, federal law requires a 90-day voter roll maintenance moratorium before elections. The current window to bring challenges to voter registrations over issues such as false addresses runs until August 7, when the moratorium will begin for the November 2024 general election.

The GOP is asking lawmakers to amend the state Election Code to allow for additional times to examine and change the voter rolls.

Requiring a mandatory photo ID for every election, without exception

Current law states that voters who do not possess and cannot reasonably obtain one of the seven approved forms of photo ID may fill out a Reasonable Impediment Declaration (RID) at the polls and present an alternative form of ID, such as a utility bill.

This proposed law would get rid of RID and make it mandatory—no exceptions—for everyone to present a photo ID to vote.

Restricting mail-in ballots to disabled, military, and eligible citizens who are out of their county for the entire voting period

According to Texas’ Secretary of State, under current law citizens are able to vote via a mail-in-ballot when they are 65 years of age or older on Election Day; sick or disabled; expecting to give birth within three weeks before or after Election Day; absent from the county of registration during the early voting period and on Election Day; civilly committed under Chapter 841 of the Texas Health and Safety Code; or confined in jail, but otherwise eligible.

The GOP’s proposal would eliminate automatic mail-in voting privileges for the elderly, new mothers, the civilly committed, and the jailed.  A survey from December 2023 found that one in five mail-in voters admitted to committing voter fraud. According to the survey, 19 percent of those who cast mail-in votes say a friend or family member filled out their ballot, in part or in full, on their behalf, and 17 percent of mail-in voters say that in the 2020 election, they cast a ballot in a state where they were no longer a permanent resident. Additionally, mail-in voting for the elderly is the optimal place for ballot harvesting to occur, in which a harvester can easily persuade voters to vote for a certain candidate and forge signatures.

Using only hand-marked, sequentially numbered paper ballots on anti-counterfeiting paper that are signed on the back by the election official at the voting location

Currently, the majority of Texans cast their ballots on electronic voting machines with a paper ballot back-up. There are a few different methods used throughout the state for voting, and it is up to the political subdivision (county, city, school district, etc.) to decide how their voters will vote. Some subdivisions use a different voting system for early voting than on Election Day.

Standardizing in-person voting, with early voting limited to a period of no longer than nine (9) days, no gap before Election Day, and assigned-precinct voting locations only

According to the Texas Secretary of State, “Generally, early voting in person begins the 17th day before Election Day (if that’s a weekend, early voting starts on Monday) and ends the 4th day before Election Day. Vote at a location in your political subdivision that’s close to where you live or work.”

The GOP is seeking to shorten the period to 10 consecutive days. Republicans are also seeking to get rid of county-wide polling, where a voter can vote at any polling location as long as it’s within their county. Precinct-based voting, where voters can only vote at their local voting location, would allow for more auditable elections.

Counting ballots in precinct using a dumb-scanner method as soon as the ballot is returned by the voter and with publication of the results prior to submission to the county

Currently, most major counties do not count votes until they arrive at a central vote-counting station. The GOP is advocating for precinct-based vote counting and publication before all ballots and records are delivered to the county.

Closing party primaries for only registered Republicans

Texas is currently one of 17 states that uses open primaries, which means that regardless of which party voters identify with, they can choose from year to year which party’s nominees they’d like to vote for in the primary election—although they cannot vote in both the Democrat Primary and the Republican Primary. If Texas adopts a closed party primary, only registered Republicans can vote in the Republican primary and only registered Democrats can vote in the Democrat primary.

Explicitly codifying the ability of the Attorney General to prosecute violations of the Election Code

According to Texas Election Code, “The county or district attorney shall investigate the allegations. If the election covers territory in more than one county, the voters may present the affidavits to the attorney general, and the attorney general shall investigate the allegations” (Title 16, Chapter 273).

This new proposal would restore the ability of the attorney general to investigate and prosecute violations of the election code after the Court of Criminal Appeals stripped him of his ability to do so .

Removing existing Secretary of State waivers to comply with current Election Code

While state election code includes many requirements for counties, cities, and other political subdivisions, there are waivers that allow for these subdivisions to escape the election code requirements.

The GOP is seeking to eliminate these waivers to ensure that every county fully complies with the election code.

Holly Tkach

Holly Tkach is a summer fellow at Texas Scorecard. She is a rising senior at Baylor University majoring in Political Science and Communication.