Texas Legislature 2019

Watch Senate Bill 9 hearing on voting rights and access in Texas House committee

The House Elections Committee on Wednesday night resumed its discussions on a controversial bill pitched as an election security measure but that critics say is a pathway to state-sanctioned voter suppression.

A voter walks into the Howson Branch Library in Austin on the last day of early voting in Travis County.
A voter walks into the Howson Branch Library in Austin on the last day of early voting in Travis County.  Rachel Zein for The Texas Tribune

The 86th Legislature runs from Jan. 8 to May 27. From the state budget to health care to education policy — and the politics behind it all — we focus on what Texans need to know about the biennial legislative session.

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A Texas House panel took up legislation Wednesday that would make it a felony for Texans who vote when they’re ineligible — even if they did so unknowingly.

The bill was left pending in committee, but it is expected to be brought up Thursday morning. Read more here.

Senate Bill 9, a controversial and wide-ranging election measure, would increase the penalty for such an offense from a Class B misdemeanor to a state jail felony, with punishment that could include up to a two-year jail term and a fine of up to $10,000. The state Senate passed the measure April 15.

The legislation would also allow an election officer or poll watcher to be present at a voting station when a voter is getting help from someone who isn’t a relative. The officer or poll watcher would be allowed to examine the voter’s ballot before it is submitted “to determine whether it is prepared in accordance with the voter's wishes.”

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Proponents say the legislation would strengthen the integrity of Texas’ elections. But critics say the legislation would only make voting more difficult and scary for voters.