Review of Texas House Bill SB 1

There has been a rash of new legislation by GOP officials that ostensibly are meant to address voter fraud, a thing that is documented to practically not occur in the USA. While the politics around this are a hotly debated topic, what’s in it should not be an opinion, but fact. As such, this article will look into the entirety of the bill and showcase each article and what it does.

It will also include my personal opinion on which sections are good, which are redundant, which are restrictive, and which need more thought put into them.

I hope it will be useful in debates we have on this subject. You can find the text in its entirety here:
https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=871&Bill=SB1

Articles of the Bill

The bill is divided into 9 articles.

Article One addresses registration of voters, and what happens if this process is not done correctly. The bill adds communication requirements and elevates complaints into criminal investigations, with some sections having as consequence a presumption of guilt and nullification of their right to have their vote counted, even without their knowledge.

Article Two addresses conduct and security of elections. It bans temporary voting locations not set up directly outside of permanent ones that are temporarily unavailable and creates more central government oversight. It also bans early voting on state holidays, mandates poll opening hours (both positively and limited) and requires video surveillance of large voting sites.

Article Three addresses election officers and observers. It limits voting machine technology, solidifies poll watchers’ rights, and mandates all communication between voting machine vendors and public officials be public.

Article Four addresses voting by mail. It bans electronic applications to vote by mail, bans the sending of applications to anyone who didn’t directly request one, requires identifying information, and loosens restrictions on signature comparison for ballot nullification.

Article Five addresses assistance of voters. It bans making adjustments for people who need assistance outside of what is written in the code, requires drivers to identify themselves and their residence, and requires personal information from anyone who assists the voter.

Article Six addresses fraud. It protects workers who want to take time to vote early, makes “voter harvesting” illegal, and makes a jailable offense out of any election judge giving out forms with known false information.

Article Seven addresses enforcement. It pushes for priority of election cases and defines actors in it, criminalizes not purging rolls of registrations with issues, and expands the ability of people to challenge the results of the election.

Article Eight addresses ineligible voters. It requires judges to inform people convicted of a felony of their voting rights.

Article Nine addresses implementation. Aside from setting up all the previous articles, it also removes the right of Secretaries of State (SoS) to amend requirements for recounts and challenges.

Sections of the Bill

As noted, I will divide this into five categories:

  • Good
  • Needs more thought / Unintended consequences
  • Restrictive
  • Administrative
  • Redundant

These are entirely my own categorizations; please read them yourself and sound off in the comments.

CategorySectionActionJudgement
Good1.04Requires a monthly comparison of people who have been cited for lack of citizenship requirements and people on voter rolls. Also requires a report on how many people were removed in this fashionGood check, wondering if this also gets auto-overturned if the citation is challenged and overturned?
2.07Requires 9 hours of early voting time per day
Requires 4 hours if the population is under 1000
Severely cuts the requirement for 12 hour days from populations above 30,000 (was 100,000).
Establishes that anyone in line to vote at closing time can still vote
Creates a minimum required opening hours, which means people cannot limit it below that (it does however mean places which were open longer can now reduce their hours, which is something that has been seen in other similar cases)
Also codifies that if you’re in line, you get to vote.
3.08All information exchanged between a public official and a voting machine vendor is public informationGood! Now imagine if they did that for all lobbyists…
4.06Adds a defect clause to allow people who changed their minds about voting by mail or early to vote in person.Takes away the ability to turn people away because they couldn’t vote by mail.
4.07Adds a clause stating that anyone who does change their mind about voting by mail but doesn’t return their ballot will vote by provisional ballotSame as above and makes tracking easier
4.16Separates mail in ballots from in person ballots in both storage and result reportingUseful for audits and data analysis
4.17Separates mail in, early and in person ballots for counting and reportingUseful for audits and data analysis
5.02Amends language to allow assistance in reading the ballotCloses a loophole that prevents voters from getting the help they need
6.01Makes it a jailable offense to provide a form to voters with known false information on it by election judgesMight be redundant, but sends the right message
6.02Adds early voting to penalties for not letting a person exercise their right to voteCloses loophole employers could use to not let people vote early
7.07Prioritizes election cases over all other cases to be heardNo drawn out, delayed court battles for elections
7.08Makes exceptions for 7.07 in cases with death penaltyAmeliorates negative impact from 7.07
8.01Requires judges to inform people convicted of felonies about their rights to voteGood; this is one of the major causes of the few vote fraud cases there are.
9.03Violations work only forward; no retroactive actionStops any attempt to relitigate issues from previous elections
Needs more thought / Unintended consequences1.06Changes language from “complaint” to “information”
Adds “information” as well as documented evidence to information submitted to AG
This indicates a sense of validity to any complaint, making any allegation a neutral basis for criminal investigation
This elevates spurious allegations to the same level of consideration as proof
2.08Establishes only the last Saturday and Sunday of early voting as mandatory, with Saturday getting 12 hours and Sunday 6.This may not have a good impact, with most people working and unable fiscally to take the time off, weekends are the best voting times.
3.02Makes rejecting a poll watcher a Class A misdemeanor
Requires an oath taken by poll watchers “I swear (or affirm) that I will not disrupt the voting process or harass voters in the discharge of my duties.”
Ironically, there is no requirement for a poll watcher to ID themselves
Nor is there any legal recourse to expel them for bad behavior, and it opens one up to a criminal charge.
3.06Any poll watcher or assignee of poll watchers who believes they were obstructed may request relief.Not a high bar for proof
3.09Any electronic device in a central counting location must have measurable input/output and a recording of it must be sent to SoSIn essence, this would ban anyone with a pacemaker, or violate their right to medical privacy.
It would also ban any electric wheelchair, amputee with electric limb, neuro-net patients, basically anyone with a medical device.
3.10Bans any ballot counting machine which can have the data it records be modified.Technologically ignorant. Give me enough time, I can modify anything.
Should be: Bans any ballot counting machine which can modify recorded data
3.12Requires notice given for tests of voting equipment
Requires no alteration of source code of equipment
Technologically ignorant again; test systems always alter for different inputs/outputs, test data generation and anonymity.
4.12Any problems with the ballot that would cause it to be rejected MAY be given a chance to explain the issue.
If done, then all ballots with such defects must be given the same chance.
Hmm… ok, but why not just make it the norm that people get a chance to fix a problem? This is early mail in voting…
4.14Same as 4.12, for early votingSame as 4.12, for early voting
4.19Allows early voting ballot board to make and keep notesThey couldn’t do this before? Is it public? Are there records?
Too few details.
5.03Requires identification of anyone who assists a person in voting, including their personal information and relationship to the voter, and any compensation they may get for itPrivacy invasion, and what are they going to do with that information? It is not unlawful to help people vote, even if paid to.
5.05Requires the same information as 5.01 and 5.03 for mail in ballots; excludes family membersSee 5.03
6.03Makes “Vote Harvesting” a crime.
Specifies vote harvesting as collecting ballots with the intention of delivering votes for a certain candidate in return for compensation
Because of the specification, this is not the problem some make it out to be
It can be problematic if the “intent” of a person cannot be well defined
7.04Expands the window of time to challenge the election.Can reduce voter confidence; once results are known, it shouldn’t take long before you know you wish to challenge or not
7.05Gives damages to a contestant who alleges fraud and it is proven that the candidate accused did indeed commit fraudGives incentive to allege fraud no matter what
9.01Removes right of SoS to amend requirements for recountsGood, but makes the whole election far more fragile and inflexible if changes need to be made. Can weaken integrity.
Bad1.05This section seems to simply backup 1.03, but also requires the AG to investigate any failure to update county residency with criminal prosecution.This is regardless of if the person hasn’t tried to vote or register to vote in another county.
Which is in violation of an individual’s right to a presumption of innocence.
1.06Hides infraction allegations as “non-public” for registration issues, until it is proven not to warrant criminal chanrgesThis means someone can be held under review secretly and not have their vote count until after a review is done, and they won’t even know it or be informed of it.
RIFE for abuse
1.08Changes the updating of the voter lists based on jury lists from a registration issue to a criminal investigation by including the SoS and AG and mandating an investigation.Looking for crimes instead of following the evidence
2.01Bans drive thru voting unless there is aa health hazard or physical inability to enter the building
Bans temporary voting places
Only allows a tent setup if the building is inaccessible and it is located next to the building.
Basically nonsense meant to make it more difficult to react to conditions and need for more polling locations.
2.07Bans early voting on state holidays
Bans early voting before 6 AM or after 9 PM
Restricts voting / makes it harder to vote
4.01Bans electronic applications to vote by mail.Texas already bans any application for voting by mail; it is a backwards and technologically ignorant stance, and costs millions.
4.02Bans providing or encouraging vote for mail applications (only allowed on direct request)Totally unnecessary muzzling legislation.
Keeps voters ignorant of their rights.
4.05Bans anyone employed by the state from giving an application to vote early to anyone who did not request it
Except for political parties
Again, unneeded restriction that only serves to make it harder for people to find the voting methods they need. No good purpose.
4.11Loosens the restriction for comparing signatures from within a six year period and two or more examples to any known signatureMASSIVELY increases the ability to nullify ballots based on a much less stringent comparison. RIFE for abuse
4.13Adds the same loosening of restriction on signature matching as 4.11MASSIVELY increases the ability to nullify ballots based on a much less stringent comparison. RIFE for abuse
5.01Bans making any adjustments for voters who need assistance outside of what is written in the laws right now
Requires drivers to fill in personal information when transporting people to vote
Takes away the ability of poll workers to help people vote
Privacy invasion, with no guarantee of data protection.
Discourages people from helping get people to the polls
7.01Criminalizes not correcting a violation of registration within 30 daysThis is more insidious than it sounds; it means voters will be purged even as they challenge the validity of the violation and will be presumed guilty until they prove their innocence.
Administrative1.02Requires registar to update county information concurrently with new registrationsJust mandates communication
1.03Requires failed attempts to register to vote to be sent as notice to court recordsJust mandates communication
1.07Adds the AG to informed party for people removed from jury lists. Just mandates communication
2.05Includes the SoS in making rules for closing polling locationsMore central governance
2.09Removes the temporary voting location from the definitional exclusion of “early voting location”Definition
2.10Repeats the section 2.01 ban on temporary polling placesRepeat
2.11Repeats the section 2.01 ban on temporary polling placesRepeat
2.12Bans “single motion” votingBasically, must be a two-step process at least (like a pop up saying “are you sure?”
3.01SoS makes a training manual for poll watchersTraining
3.03Codifies free movement and being near enough to see and hear election officials’ actions for poll watchersClarification
3.04Codifies a poll watcher may watch all activities after the polling location closes, including transfer to regional counting locationsClarification
3.11Requires a reconciliation of voters to votes on election night and post onlineStandard administrative practice to adopt
4.04Provides a space to provide the information in 4.03Form
4.08This is meant to compare the address for request for early voting to their registration address, but uses the wrong numbers… It should read “compare Section 84.002(a)(1) to Section 13.002(c)(7)”This is just shoddy workmanship… or it was altered and added a clause.
Either way, no problems here, and standard practice IMO
4.09States that a space in the envelope should hide the required ID information on the ballot, and that no record linking ballot to voter may be createdCommon practice in mail in ballots
4.10States that a ballot returned too late must be recorded for time and placed in a locked container. Only adds the bit about locking it.Administrative security action
4.13This is meant to compare the address for request for mail in voting to their registration address, but uses the wrong numbers… It should read “compare Section 84.002(a)(1) to Section 13.002(c)(7)”This is just shoddy workmanship… or it was altered and added a clause.
Either way, no problems here, and standard practice IMO
4.15Closes a loophole of having to define something as a problem with ballots to report it. Now anything noted as a problem in the law gets reported.Closes loophole
5.04Changes the language of the oath in insignificant ways, except to note self-awareness of perjury charges if they are lyingScare tactic. Just meant to make sure people take it seriously
5.06Creates space to input information required by 5.05Form
7.06Gives criminal courts access to documentation related to the crimes in the codeAccess
8.02Documents 8.01 in the judgement overviewForm
9.02Protects other aspects from invalidation if any section is rendered invalidContract language
9.04Defines when the law would take effectAdministration
Redundant1.01Simply requires people to submit their own acknowledgement of their history and information. Redundant because this is already standard practice
2.02Requires a signed copy of the opening zero count and the daily end count of votes per candidate.Redundant because this is already standard practice
2.03Requires a recording of “spoiled ballots” from electronic voting machinesYou can require a log for cancelled votes, sure, but it shouldn’t record them anyway as results. That’s how programs work.
2.06Requires a SoS-created form to acknowledge transfer of responsibility for ballot counts from polling judge to clerksAgain, seems unnecessary bureaucracy , but nothing against it
2.13Requires ballot guards to be licensed peace officers
Allows video coverage of ballots for populations under 100,000, and requires it for populations above
Redundant because this is already standard practice
3.05Makes it illegal to obstruct the view of a poll watcherAlready the case as a part of practices
3.07Mandates recording of information of voters who return marked ballotsRedundant because this is already standard practice
4.03Requires ID for not only the mail in ballot but the request for one as wellRedundant to the ballot itself and registration
4.18Requires early voting ballots to be electronically recorded on both sidesCompletely redundant, as the language in the original section states: “in the same manner as the corresponding precinct election records”
5.03Enshrines the right of poll watchers to observe assistance to votersCompletely redundant as all activities are already covered
7.02Defines what an election official is and states they are liable to penalty and banned from being an election official if they are convicted of violating the codeStandard definitions already exist
7.03Expands the official venue for election contests from Travis county to any county in which a participant resides in.Seems wholly unnecessary
Only used as a political tactic to imply that Travis county won’t act fairly to candidates from other counties.

Conclusion

There are a lot of good things in this bill. Closing loopholes, ensuring minimums, making clear reports and communication are all positives. There are also quite a few items that have a good basis but aren’t well enough thought out, and could even be disastrous if misused. And there are quite a few unneeded restrictions, bans, restrictions and loosening of requirements to nullify votes.

It’s the last items that make this, IMO, a bad bill. There is no need or reason behind the restrictions; there is nothing to show that they would address in any way a problem. And making it easy to nullify a person’s vote is not ok.

So while there are things here that are laudable and needed, packaged together this harms voters more than it helps.

What’s your opinion? Sound off below.

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