Statement on Texas Senate’s Passage of Criminalization of Voting Bill

AUSTIN — The anti-voter Senate Bill 2 passed the Senate Monday, and now will head to the Texas House of Representatives for consideration. 

The bill seeks to increase the criminal penalty of voting violations from a misdemeanor to a second-degree felony, which can carry a punishment of two to 20 years in state prison, and opens the door for increased prosecutions in instances of confusion by eliminating the requirement that the voter knew they were violating the Election Code. 

This bill would have a chilling effect on election participation by injecting fear into the voting process, with would-be voters fearful that they could face criminal charges for what might be unintended mistakes. 

The following is a statement from Katya Ehresman, voting rights manager for Common Cause Texas: 

Our right to vote is the foundation of our democracy and no eligible voter should face felony prosecution for trying to participate in our democracy. But our elected officials in the Texas Senate, doubling down on the harmful laws they have passed previously, have added the threat of prison time to discourage voters from seeking change at the ballot box. 

Further criminalizing what are honest mistakes stands to accomplish one thing: scaring eligible voters from exercising their constitutional right to vote.

We are headed in the wrong direction in Texas, by giving mean-spirited legislation like this attention while ignoring the fact that millions of Texans  don’t have equitable access to the ballot. Our legislature should be working to ensure that barriers to the ballot are torn down, not erecting new ones. 

Today’s floor debate over Senate Bill 2 showed nothing more than bad faith motivations by state lawmakers to inject more intimidation, instead of education, into Texas’ election systems. Watching the Senate today, we are skeptical that the same lawmakers who have stagnated funding for voter education will provide the resources needed to prevent people from being ensnared in the traps set by this bill.