Responding to pressure from grassroots activists, Republican lawmakers are advancing legislation to restore a felony penalty for illegal voting, fixing a problem they themselves created in the last legislative session.
Senate Bill 2, authored by State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R–Mineola), reverses a provision in Hughes’ 2021 comprehensive election integrity bill that downgraded illegal voting from a felony to a Class A misdemeanor.
Illegal voting is a collection of offenses that includes stealing votes, double voting, and other forms of cheating.
SB 2 restores the penalty for illegal voting to a second-degree felony.
The bill received a public hearing February 27 in the Senate State Affairs Committee, and committee members approved it that same day on a party-line vote.
SB 2 next heads to the full Senate, where it is likely to pass on another party-line vote. The chamber’s current party composition is 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats.
The bill then faces the same process in the Texas House, which is lagging behind the Senate.
Lawmakers in the Senate and House have claimed to be mystified as to how the penalty for illegal voting came to be lowered in the first place.
As Texas Scorecard reported at the time, Republican State Rep. Steve Allison of San Antonio included the change in a House floor amendment to Hughes’ 2021 bill (#50 out of 63 proposed amendments).
The last-minute switch infuriated election integrity advocates and Republican Party delegates, who had set a legislative priority to strengthen penalties for election code violations.
Restoring the felony penalty for illegal voting is a Texas GOP priority for this session, along with other measures to protect Texas elections.
Multiple Republican lawmakers filed bills to fix the problem they themselves created.
Four similar House bills have been referred to the House Elections Committee, which has yet to convene this session. An organizational meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 9.