Austin – Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) passed three more of his Election Integrity bills out of the Texas Senate on Thursday, April 13th, 2023, including Senate Bill 1039. The Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky, Manager, Election Law Reform Initiative & Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation called SB 1039 “…an important development that will further enhance public confidence in the credibility of elections.” This is the third time the Senate has passed the audit bill.
“Passing the best voter audit bill in the country is an important milestone in making Texas election transparency the best in the nation too.” Stated Senator Bettencourt.
On April 12, 2023, Harris County filed a lawsuit against the Texas Attorney General to keep ABC 13 out of Houston from getting records related to the November 2022 General Election. Senator Bettencourt’s SB 1039, Co-authored by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Tyler), restores the line of communications between the public and election officials. SB 1039 will provide a civil complaint procedure for Election Judges, Candidates, County Chair or State Chair of a Political Party, Presiding Judge or Alternate Presiding Judge, and the head of a specific- purpose political committee that supports or opposes a ballot measure to contact a county election authority about identified Election Irregularities and receive a response. If after two questions and answers, the inquirer is still not satisfied, the Election Irregularity may be referred to the Secretary of State who will determine if an audit is necessary. If the audit finds a violation, then the Secretary of State could take necessary action up to assigning a conservator to manage that election authority.
“You only have to see that Harris County filed suit in Travis County to BLOCK the release of the November 8th election records that the Texas Attorney General ordered released to see why we need SB 1039 passed by the Texas House too! The Harris County EA and County Judge still refuse to tell the public what truly happened to make the November 8th election a fiasco.” Said Senator Bettencourt.
SB 1911 will increase the penalty for the intentional failure to deliver election supplies from a Class C to a Class A misdemeanor, increase the penalty for obstructing the distribution of election supplies for an election from a Class C misdemeanor to a state jail felony, and increase the penalty for revealing election results early from a Class A misdemeanor to a state jail felony. It also creates a Class A misdemeanor if an election official intentionally fails to provide an election precinct with the required number of ballots or intentionally fails to promptly supplement the distributed ballots upon request by a polling place.
Finally, SB 1933 would allow the Secretary of State to randomly select additional smaller counties to audit during a two-year period, if they complete the audit of the smaller counties. Since the vast majority of the counties are smaller counties, it will take generations to eventually audit all of the smaller counties. If after the audit the Secretary of State identifies a pattern of reoccurring problems with election administration that could impede the free exercise of a citizen’s voting rights, like the tens of thousands of election irregularities that occurred in Harris County’s 2022 elections, the secretary would be required to recommend the county for administrative oversight or a conservatorship.
“Another three-peat of good election bills that need passage in the Texas House on the way to getting the Governor’s signature,” concluded Senator Bettencourt.