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Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday called on Texas lawmakers to increase the penalty for illegal voting – less than a month after signing a bill that lowers the maximum penalty.
The crime of illegal voting was set to rise from a second-degree felony to a class A misdemeanor in December, after the passage of Senate Bill 1, a sweeping bill that restricted the state’s voting process and local control of elections.
Class A offenses carry a penalty of up to one year in prison, but can be resolved with a fine. A second degree felony in Texas carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
But in a letter to the Texas Senate Thursday, Abbott added legislation that would overturn the change to the list of things lawmakers can consider in the current special session of the legislature.
“The state of Texas has made tremendous strides in maintaining the integrity of our elections,” Abbott said in a press release. “By increasing the penalties for illegal voting, we will send an even clearer message that voter fraud will not be tolerated in Texas.”
The decision received praise from Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who chairs the state Senate. He said on Twitter that the Senate would pass a bill for this purpose next week. Patrick also said in his tweet that the House added the amendment lowering “last minute” penalties and that the change “went under the radar until” Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton and Patrick “le find and agree that it needs to be corrected “.
The amendment originally came from Rep. Steve Allison, a Republican from San Antonio. It was approved in the House by an 80-35 vote. The bill was then sent to a conference committee and the final version was approved in the Senate with the support of all Republicans in the hemicycle.
Neither Patrick nor Abbott were available to immediately comment on the announcement.
Earlier this month, House Speaker Dade Phelan told the Houston Chronicle that the Allison Amendment was part of “the legislature’s holistic approach to advancing electoral integrity” that found ” the appropriate balance between access to ballots and accountability “. Phelan has hinted that he disagrees with the governor’s choice. in a tweet Thursday evening, saying now is not the time to re-content.
Harsh electoral fraud penalties in Texas have come to the country’s attention in recent years, particularly in the case of Crystal Mason, a Tarrant County woman facing a five-year sentence in a poll she said not knowing that she was not eligible.
Another amendment focused on electoral fraud sanctions dealt specifically with Mason’s case, but was deleted at another conference committee after author, Senator Bryan Hughes, disapproved of the language.
The state’s Republican leadership has gone to considerable lengths to add new restrictions on voting and eliminate perceived voter fraud in the state, even though there were no credible allegations of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. and top election officials for the secretary of state office told lawmakers the vote was “simple and secure.”
In addition to lowering penalties for illegal voting, SB 1 establishes new identification requirements for postal voting, improves protections for observers who are supporters of elections and establishes new rules, and possibly criminal penalties, for those who help voters. It also makes it a state prison crime for local election officials to proactively distribute requests for mail-in ballots, even if they provide them to voters who automatically qualify to vote by mail or to helping groups. to get out the vote.
This week, Abbott pushed for an audit of the 2020 general election in four Texas counties – Harris, Collin, Dallas and Tarrant – after former President Donald Trump urged him to add audit legislation to the agenda of the extraordinary session.
Local officials said they were completely ignorant of the process, which Abbott said had already started because the audit guidelines covered some of the standard post-election procedures that local officials are already required to undertake.
The Texas Tribune Festival 2021, the week-long celebration of politics and politics featuring big names and bold ideas, wrapped up on September 25, but there’s still time to tune in. Explore dozens of free on-demand events before midnight Thursday, September 30, at tribfest.org.