The Texas House approved a bill Thursday that would increase penalties for mail-in election crimes. Senate Bill 5 by Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, was approved by a vote of 92-39 despite vociferous opposition from House Democrats who spent hours on Wednesday trying to amend and kill the bill. The bill now heads back to the Senate where lawmakers can accept the changes the House made or appoint committees to hash out the differences before passing it along to Gov. Greg Abbott to sign into law. Abbott, who has promised to fight voter fraud, made it one of his priorities for the special legislative session. The issue received little attention during the regular session, despite being the primary way experts believe voter fraud occurs. But it gained traction after allegations of mail-in ballot fraud in West Dallas and Grand Prairie this spring.
Under the law, penalties for election crimes would be increased to the next-highest offense level. Misdemeanors will become felonies, and low-level felonies would get an upgrade.
The fines associated with the crimes also would increase. Fraudulent use of a ballot, for instance, would rise from a state jail felony to a third-degree felony, punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The law is aimed at cracking down on those who target people over the age of 65 for ballot fraud. It also places tougher penalties on repeat offenders or people who commit multiple offenses during the same election.