A bill to make illegal voting a felony in Texas has been moved forward after a committee in the Texas Senate voted in approval of the measure.
In the first meeting of the Senate Committee on State Affairs, the members advanced Sen. Bryan Hughes’ Senate Bill 2, which would increase the penalties for illegally voting in Texas back to the level at which they had previously been, as reported by The Dallas Express.
The proposal would also clarify that a person who knows of the circumstance making it illegal for him to vote (such as being a felon) does not also need to understand that such a circumstance prohibits him from legally voting in order to be prosecuted under the bill.
“For almost all crimes, ignorance of the law is not a defense,” Hughes noted in a bill analysis. “Requiring that the prosecution prove a defendant’s personal knowledge of a specific law makes a crime almost impossible to prosecute.”
Chaired by Sen. Hughes (R-Mineola), State Affairs is a significant committee with 11 members, including Sens. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney), Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), Morgan LaMantia (D-South Padre Island), José Menéndez (D-San Antonio), Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston), Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound), and Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), among others.
Also on the committee is Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown), who was recently arrested for allegedly driving while intoxicated, as reported by The Dallas Express. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who controls Senate appointments, has not removed Schwertner from his committees while litigation is ongoing.
In his comments on SB 2 before the committee, Hughes explained that, despite its being a felony for nearly 50 years, an amendment in the House during a special session in 2021 reduced the penalty for illegal voting to a misdemeanor.
He excused the passage of the penalty reduction in 2021, suggesting, “Back in 2021, there was so much positive reform in Senate Bill 1 that it made sense to pass the bill even with that amendment included, knowing that we could come back and clean it up. And that is what we are doing now.”
When the floor was opened for public comment, Alex Mead, an election judge, expressed concerns about how the bill would allow for the prosecution of people attempting in good faith to follow the law.
“Please don’t criminalize honest mistakes,” Mead pleaded to the committee.
“I think the better approach is that our law should not allow honest mistakes to be prosecuted so that that way we are making sure that, no matter what, we are treating everyone uniformly in terms of how we are prosecuting actual, intentional illegal voting,” Mead added.
The State Affairs Committee also opened the floor for public comment on bills from Sens. Brian Bridwell (R-Granbury) and Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), in addition to two other proposals by Hughes (see here and here).
At the end of the meeting, the committee voted on all the proposals. When SB 2 came to the table, the committee voted 7-3 to report the bill favorably to the full Senate.
First, how can it be an honest mistake to vote unlawfully? The rules seem pretty simple, US citizen and registered to vote and not a felon and not registered to vote or voting in another jurisdiction. Pretty clear.
With regard to being a felony, ANY voting crime conviction should result in the right to vote, be elected, or participate in any election or work for any election committee or PAC, etc/ being permanently revoked