The state Senate passed legislation Monday that increases criminal penalties for election-related crimes in Texas. Voting rights groups have said they worry the bill could criminalize honest mistakes, among other things.
Supporters say the sweeping election bill is aimed at cracking down on voter fraud. It is on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s list of priority legislation the session.
Among other things, Senate Bill 9 increases criminal penalties for anyone who provides false information on a voter registration form. Currently, providing false information on an application is a Class B misdemeanor. Under the bill, it would become a “state jail felony.”
The legislation also increases criminal penalties for casting a ballot – including a provisional ballot – if you aren’t eligible to vote. Provisional ballots were created under federal law to allow people to vote if they aren’t sure they can; the votes are counted only if election officials can prove a voter is eligible. Groups say the bill could undermine these protections.