An East Texas state senator again wants to make illegal voting a felony.
Senate Bill 2, filed by Republican Bryan Hughes of Mineola, would also change the definition of what it means to cast a ballot illegally.
If all of this sounds familiar, it should. Before a sweeping election law authored by Hughes was passed last session in 2021, an amendment was made by a fellow lawmaker lowering the penalty for illegal voting to a misdemeanor.
“The punishment should fit the crime,” Hughes said. “Voting illegally is a big deal in Texas, and the law should reflect that.”
SB 2 was heard before the Texas Senate State Affairs committee. Bob Green, chairman of the Travis County Republican Party Election Integrity Committee, said following testimony that SB 2 would restore the ability to prosecute voter fraud as a felony “where it had been for about 50 years before it was surreptitiously amended just prior to the passage of SB 1 in the 87th Legislature.” He suggested a posting be placed in every polling place warning that it is illegal to vote if you’re not an American citizen, not registered to vote in Texas in accordance with law, not a current resident of the county, or are a convicted felon that has yet to complete the requirements of one’s sentence.
Sharon Edwards, a Voter Deputy Registrar in Travis County who has served as a voter deputy registrar in Travis County, said “The fact that we have a problem, I don’t think is a secret to anybody. Sometimes, you have to have a severe penalty to get people’s attention.”
The bill, one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick‘s emergency items and therefore eligible for passage before a 60-day limit on new bills, passed the committee 7-3. If it becomes law, illegal voting would be punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, a punishment comparable to that for manslaughter, critics of the bill pointed out.
The bill is now eligible for consideration on the floor of the Texas Senate.