Safeguarding election integrity is one of the core functions of state government. During the regular and first called sessions of the 82nd Texas Legislature, my conservative colleagues and I passed several significant measures to improve election integrity and safeguard against election fraud.
Improving election integrity was Plank #3 of the Texas Conservative Coalition’s “Pledge with Texans,” a conservative reform agenda I signed – along with 78 other Texas lawmakers, Governor Perry and Comptroller Susan Combs – prior to the start of the regular session last January. The pledge, which was developed in 2009 and 2010 with significant input and feedback from Texans across the state, was intended to serve as a foundation for conservatives’ long-term goals for Texas. In committing to the pledge, we promised to support and advance all of its planks during the 82nd Texas Legislature.
The most significant legislation we passed relating to election integrity was Senate Bill 14, which requires individuals to show photo identification before voting. This bill names several forms of government-issued photo identification to be accepted at polling places, including an election identification certificate; personal identification card issued to the voter by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS); military identification card that contains the voter’s photograph; United States Citizenship certificate that contains the voter’s photograph; United States passport; and license to carry a concealed handgun issued by the DPS. The bill also provides reasonable exceptions to the photo ID requirement for indigent, elderly and disabled voters and allows individuals not carrying photo ID to vote provisionally, as long as they provide verification of their identity within six days of the election.
We also passed House Bill 2449, which makes mail-in balloting more secure by addressing a shortcoming in existing law under which a vote harvester would have to be caught in possession of at least 20 ballots to be charged with a felony. Under the new law, when official ballots or carrier envelopes are obtained in violation of current law pursuant to one continuing course of conduct, the illegal conduct could be considered as a single offense and the number of ballots or carrier envelopes aggregated in determining the grade of the offense.
My fellow conservatives and I also passed House Bill 174, which will enhance the integrity of voter registration rolls by ensuring that they are accurate and up-to-date. The bill creates a mechanism through which voters who have died and non-citizens who have illegally registered to vote are removed from voter rolls immediately.
Finally, during the first called session this summer, we passed Senate Bill 1, a measure that requires verification of citizenship or residency status for new or renewal driver licenses.
Eliminating voter fraud is an essential part of protecting voters’ rights because every fraudulent vote cancels out a legitimate vote. Governor Perry designated Voter ID an emergency item when the legislature convened in January. With passage of this legislation, my fellow conservative Texas lawmakers and I have improved the integrity of elections in our state.