Texas Governor Backs GOP Bills Seeking to Safeguard Election Integrity

Texas Governor Backs GOP Bills Seeking to Safeguard Election Integrity
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announces the reopening of more Texas businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic at a press conference at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on May 18, 2020. (Lynda M. Gonzalez/Pool/Getty Images)
Janita Kan

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday called on the state legislature to pass bills aimed at preventing election officials from relaxing election rules and processes without authorization.

The Lone Star State governor stressed that without measures to tighten election integrity laws across the state, election officials could “jeopardize” the election process by presenting opportunities for people to commit voter fraud.

“Whether it’s the unauthorized expansion of mail-in ballots or the unauthorized expansion of drive-thru voting, we must pass laws to prevent election officials from jeopardizing the election process,” Abbott told reporters at a press conference.

The governor in February named election integrity as an emergency legislative item during his State of the State address.

“Our objective in Texas is to ensure that every eligible voter gets to vote and that only eligible ballots are counted,” he said. “In the 2020 election, we witnessed actions throughout our state that could risk the integrity of our elections and enable voter fraud, which is why I made election integrity an emergency item this session.”

Election integrity came to the forefront of the nation’s attention when the November 2020 election was followed by a series of allegations of irregularities and election fraud. Former President Donald Trump and his allies challenged the Nov. 3 election results in courts, alleging that illegal votes were cast and counted in several swing states due to alleged voter fraud and relaxed election regulations that were changed by state executives without going through state legislatures.

The election integrity of results in Harris County, the most populous county in Texas, was questioned after county officials attempted to modify election rules in response to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic. The county implemented drive-thru voting stations and expanded the option to all voters—even those not qualified for curbside voting.

Republicans immediately challenged the ballots cast at drive-thru polling sites in state and federal courts before Nov. 3 but the cases were dismissed in both jurisdictions. The state court dismissed the case without comment, while the federal court dismissed the case saying there was a lack of standing. The 5th Circuit Court also denied to hear an appeal.

Abbott also took issue with how Harris County election officials also attempted to send unsolicited mail-in ballot applications to over two million of voters, including individuals who would not be eligible to vote-by-mail. The Texas Supreme Court ruled that the county officials were not authorized to send out unsolicited mail-in ballot applications and blocked them from doing so.

“Election officials should be working to stop potential mail ballot fraud—not facilitate it,” he said.

Abbott was joined by Sen. Paul Bettencourt and Rep. Briscoe Cain during the press conference. Both state legislators are vocal on this issue and have proposed several pieces of legislation to enhance election integrity in the state.

“I think uniformity is what we need in Texas. So, rural voters coming home from work at the same access as urban voters,” Bettencourt said, adding that he does not think it would infringe on other aspects voting rights.

“The only form of voter suppression is when an illegitimate voter, an illegible voter, casts a ballot,” Cain added during the press conference. “When an ineligible voter casts their ballot, they’re actually silencing the voice of an American citizen.”

Harris County officials responded to the criticism and bill proposal, calling their own press conference.

“These kinds of attempts to confuse, to intimidate, to suppress are a continuation of policies we’ve seen in this state since Reconstruction,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said, reported the Texas Tribune. “It is a continuation as well of the big lie that’s being peddled by some far-right elements that the election in 2020 was somehow not true and should be overturned.”

The two bills that are currently being discussed include House Bill 6 and Senate Bill 7. Both laws seek to ensure uniformity in election rules and processes throughout the state.

The press conferences comes days after the state’s attorney general Ken Paxton made similar comments, urging Republican lawmakers to treat election integrity as a priority issue.
“I would encourage them to work with the legislature in those states and make sure that their laws are tightened up because the credibility of these elections is so important,” Paxton told Breitbart News during the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida.

“We don’t want to be Venezuela,” he said. “We don’t want to be another country where people don’t trust the elections, where there’s really no reason to go vote if you don’t know if the integrity of the elections is good.”

Paxton played a prominent role following voter fraud allegations in November. He led Texas’s legal efforts to challenge election results in four battleground states before the U.S. Supreme Court, which was later dismissed due to lack of standing.

Other states are also working toward passing election reform bills, including Georgia. The Peach State’s bill seeks to repeal no-excuse absentee voting and limit mail-in ballots to certain criteria. It is currently making its way through the state legislature.
Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.
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