Austin – We Have a Problem!

Austin – We Have a Problem!

May 3, 2023

House Election Committee Dragging their Heels, by Fran Rhodes

After the debacles of the 2020 and 2022 National elections, we can all agree that election security and transparency is at the top of every voter’s priority list for the 88th Legislative Session.  So – what’s being done about it?  If you are the Texas House Elections Committee, the answer to that is “Very little!”

The House Elections Committee, chaired by Rep. Reggie Smith, R. Van Alstyne, has had 274 bills referred to the committee so far.  43 of those bills have actually been moved out of committee.  231 remain pending.  Some of the 43 that passed, are stuck in Calendars Committee.  With only 3-1/2 weeks of session left, it’s not looking good for election priority legislation.

No one seems to know why the Elections Committee is not moving bills, but maybe it’s because they’ve been told not to.  Remember last session when an amendment was added to the Election Integrity bill that lowered the penalty for illegal voting from felony to misdemeanor?  Grassroots supporters raised a stink and blasted both the House and Senate for letting that slip through.  Then, in one of the special sessions, the Senate passed a bill to correct it and put it back to felony, but House Speaker Dade Phelan said Now is not the time to re-litigate this issue.”  We would like to know, Speaker Phelan – just when IS the time?

Could it be that the Speaker has no interest in improving any election security issue?  Committee Chairs usually take their orders from the Speaker – that’s why they are given the chair positions in the first place, so that they will do the will of the Speaker.  One bill that would correct the punishment has passed the House and is now in the Senate, but the Senate bill has gone nowhere in the House.  The Senate has done a good job of passing priority election legislation.  The House Elections Committee, however, is sitting on it’s thumbs.

Here is a summary of the Elections Committee issues and what WE grassroots activists can do about them:

Four Senate Election bills will be heard in Committee on Thursday May 4.  Get to the Capitol if you can, and register and/or testify in support of these bills.  If you cannot get to the Capitol, use the House on line comment link here to submit a comment.  (Remember when you do this, it becomes a part of the permanent Committee record – it’s a good way to let your voice be heard).

The Bills in Committee on Thursday are:

  • SB1039 – regarding citizen complaints & audits when irregularities are discovered
  • SB1911 – regarding delivery of adequate supplies to polling locations, includes penalty for failure
  • SB1599 – regarding rules for mail in ballots
  • SB1807 –  adds civil penalties to current law, for altering election laws

Eleven bills are stuck in the Committee.  Either left pending, not sent to Calendars, or received but no hearing scheduled.  We can contact members of the House Elections Committee to demand they take action on these bills before it’s too late.

The bills stuck in Committee are:

  • SB2 – Restore penalties:  Passed Senate, referred to House Elections 4/10 – no hearing
  • SB921 – Rank Choice voting:  Passed Senate, referred to House Elections 4/3 – no hearing
  • SB1070 – withdraw from ERIC crosscheck voter registration:  Passed Senate, voted out of House Elections Committee on 4/24 – not sent to Calendars yet
  • SB2208 – Election crimes can be prosecuted in adjoining districts:  Passed Senate 4/27, referred to House Elections 4/28 – no movement
  • SB990 – Eliminate County wide voting – Passed Senate 4/20, referred to House Elections 4/25 – no movement
  • SB1600 – proof of citizenship to register:  Passed Senate 4/18 – referred to House Elections 4/24 – no movement.
  • SB1950 – Prohibit election officials from suspending election law – Passed Senate 4/6, referred to House Elections 4/18 – no movement
  • HB611 – Rank Choice voting:  Public hearing 3/30 – left pending in Committee
  • HB2809 – withdraw from ERIC crosscheck voter registration:  Public hearing 4/20 – left pending in committee
  • HB202 – SOS can suspend elections if problems recurring:  Hearing 3/30 – left pending in committee
  • HB5231 – Eliminate County wide voting:  referred to Elections Committee 3/24 – no hearing
  • HB1671 – Harvesters liable for monetary damages:  committee approved 4/27 – not sent to Calendars yet

Please do what you can to convince the House Elections Committee (including Chairman Smith) and Speaker Phelan, that the grassroots activists and Republican voters demand safe, secure, and transparent elections.  These bills need to be supported and moved forward.  Sine Die is only 3-1/2 weeks, away – so they must act swiftly, or the Governor should call a special session to address election issues.

Speaker Dade Phelan:

  • Austin Office Phone Number:  (512) 463-1000
  • District Office Phone Number:  (409) 745-2777
  • Email:  [email protected]

House Committee on Elections:

Position Name Email Phone # Room #
Chair: Reggie Smith [email protected] 512-463-0297 E1.314
Vice Chair: John H. Bucy III [email protected] 512-463-0696 E2.306
Members: Dustin Burrows [email protected] 512-463-0542 E2.610
Members: Giovanni Capriglione [email protected] 512-463-0690 E1.506
Members: Mano DeAyala [email protected] 512-463-0514 E2.416
Members: Christian Manuel [email protected] 512-463-0662 E2.320
Members: Eddie Morales [email protected] 512-463-0566 E1.212
Members: Valoree Swanson [email protected] 512-463-0572 E2.710
Members: Hubert Vo [email protected] 512-463-0568 4N.8
Clerk Lauren McCarthy [email protected] 512-463-0772 E2.144


NOW – if you’re feeling really energetic!  Here are some other election bills that are stuck in other places:

Stuck in House or Senate State Affairs:

  • HB1243 – restores election violation penalties – Passed House, referred to Senate State Affairs 5/1
  • SB1846 – Prohibits voting machines from China and others – Passed Senate, referred to House State Affairs 4/17 – no movement
  • SB1910 – Public access to election records – Passed Senate, referred to House State Affairs 4/17 – no movement
  • SJR35 – Texas voters must be US Citizens – Passed Senate, referred to House State Affairs 4/18 – no movement

Miscellaneous Election bills that need attention:

  • HB5053 – Allows election crimes to be prosecuted by adjoining counties – Voted out of Committee, sent to Calendars 4/18 – no floor schedule
  • HB5180 – Public access to election records – Put on House Local & Consent Calendar for 5/6
  • SB1927 – Establishes State Prosecutor for election crimes – Placed on Senate Intent calendar 4/15, then pulled off.  (we’ve been told it needs a push from Lt. Gov Patrick)

We’ve all heard that old refrain at the end of session …..  We’re sorry!  We just ran out of time!”.   DON’T BELIEVE IT!  These are the games they play, and they have time to get done what they are motivated to get done.  Let’s take Milton Friedman’s advice and make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing.  We’re counting on y’all to come through.  Make those phone calls, write those letters, visit those lawmakers, and testify at hearings!  You can do it, and together, we can get some progress on safe, transparent, fair elections.