A Texas Senate panel approved a measure Sunday aiming to crack down on mail-in ballot fraud — largely through increased penalties. “Mail-ballot voting is a prime target for illegal voting and election fraud,” said Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, who authored the measure, Senate Bill 5. “In the U.S., the right to vote is sacred. Any attempt to steal an American’s vote … must be addressed.” In a 9-0 vote, the Senate Committee on State Affairs sent the bill to the full chamber. The mail-in voting issue was among the items Gov. Greg Abbott placed on his call for the special legislative session that kicked off last week. The focus on absentee balloting puts the Republican-dominated legislature on a new path for changing the voting process by addressing a documented vulnerability in Texas elections. Previously, lawmakers targeted rare in-person election fraud with voter ID legislation eventually blocked by federal courts.
Articles about voting issues in Texas.
Under the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) waged legal war against the voter ID rules Texas lawmakers passed in 2011, saying the new restrictions would disproportionately impact minority voters. That finding was later validated by multiple federal court rulings, two of which concluded the state’s GOP majority passed a deliberately racist bill. This week brought another sign of the 180-degree change on voting rights cases under the Trump administration’s DOJ, which on Monday filed a legal brief that argues Texas should be allowed to fix its voter ID rules without federal intervention or oversight. The filing also argues that the courts should simply trust Texas to educate voters on the tweaked voter ID law the Legislature passed earlier this year, despite the state’s faceplant trial run when it tried to implement those rules during last year’s presidential election. Experts say it’s a remarkable argument, given the history of the state’s years-long legal struggle to implement some version of a voter ID law that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once called “the strictest regime in the country.”
Opponents of Texas’ new voter ID law asked a federal judge this week to return the state’s election rules to the days when people could access the polls with a voter registration card. Texas has been embroiled in a legal battle over its voter ID laws since 2011 when the Republican-controlled Legislature passed Senate Bill 14, claiming it was necessary to address Texans’ voter fraud concerns. Buoyed by the election of President Donald Trump, who claims he lost the popular vote in November to Hillary Clinton because 2 million people voted illegally, Texas claims in court filings that changes it’s made to its voter ID law sufficiently address the concerns of the Fifth Circuit that found SB 14 disenfranchises minorities, who are more likely to vote for Democrats.
Texas: Will Federal Judges Be Able to Fix Texas Voting Rights Before 2018 Elections? | The San Antonio Current
While Texas lawmakers dive into an encore legislative session at the capitol this month, a few high-ranking federal judges are quietly weighing whether or not the legislature intentionally passed laws that discriminate against minorities. These decisions are based on two separate, long-brewing cases, both rooted in Texas election laws, both rushing to wrap up before the looming 2018 election cycle, and both guaranteed to significantly shake up national politics. The first legal battle began in 2011, when the Texas Legislature drafted new state and congressional districts to keep up with the quickly-expanding population. Most of those new Texans were Latino and African American — a shift that eventually made white Texans a minority population in the state. According to voting rights advocates and federal judges, conservative lawmakers weren’t eager about their new black and brown (and predominantly Democrat) neighbors. So, they claim, the GOP-led legislature redrew district lines to dilute the votes of new black and brown Texans.
Federal courts should trust Texas to properly educate voters on new ID rules ahead of the 2018 elections instead of insisting that money be spent on a marketing campaign, President Trump’s justice department argued in a filing Monday. The filing, part of the Trump administration’s recent support for Texas in its years-long battle over the state’s 2011 voter ID law, comes despite widespread criticism of Texas’ voter education efforts ahead of the 2016 election. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos is considering what, if any, consequences Texas should face following her April ruling that lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minority voters by passing the nation’s strictest voter ID law six years ago.
Texas: Harris County, Texas, Officials Won’t Say Whether Election Systems Were Targeted | Government Technology
Despite widespread alarm over the breadth of Russian cyber attacks on state and local election systems last year, including revelations of Dallas County being targeted, Harris County officials are refusing to say whether hackers similarly took aim at the nation’s third-largest county. Releasing information on whether Harris County election systems saw attacks from Russian hackers would threaten the county’s cyber security by emboldening hackers to further target local systems, county officials said this week. The county’s argument was dismissed by experts, who said the secrecy is unnecessary, and could actually downplay the seriousness of the threat and the resources needed to combat it. “There’s this concept in security called ‘security through obscurity,’ sort of, if they don’t know about it they won’t come after it,” said Pamela Smith, a consultant at Verified Voting, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that promotes voting integrity. “But to really have robust security, you want people to be able to know that it’s there … I think what the public wants to know is that you’re aware of the threat and you’re taking steps to mitigate.”
The state of Texas faced a healthy dose of judicial skepticism on Saturday as its lawyers laid out final arguments in a trial over whether lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minority voters in enacting current Texas House and Congressional district maps. A three-judge panel peppered lawyers from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office with questions that suggested they were having trouble swallowing the state’s defense of its maps, premised on the argument that lawmakers were merely following court orders in creating them. The state Legislature adopted the maps in 2013 in an effort to half further legal challenges that began in 2011. In the final hours of six days of hearings, U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez said he saw “nothing in the record,” to suggest the 2013 Legislature, before approving the boundaries, considered fixing voting rights violations flagged by another federal court identified ahead of time.
Eight months ahead of the 2018 primaries, Texas and its legal foes on Monday will kick off a week-long trial that could shake up races across the state. The state and minority rights groups have been squabbling for six years over new political district boundaries drawn following the 2010 census. As part of a long-winding legal battle, a panel of three federal judges this week will reconvene in a federal courthouse here to consider the validity of the state’s political maps and whether changes should quickly be made to the state’s House and Congressional boundaries ahead of the midterm elections. At issue is whether the current boundaries violate the voting rights of millions of Texans of color.
Texas: State accused of withholding documents in Texas redistricting case | San Antonio Express-News
Plaintiffs challenging the 2013 redistricting maps on Tuesday accused the state of improperly delaying the release of thousands of pages of documents from them, including 113 documents that state lawyers refuse to hand over because they say they are privileged. The spat may further delay a conclusion to the weeklong trial, which already was frustrating judges on Tuesday because of repetitive questions during the House maps portion of the trial. Testimony over congressional maps was heard late Tuesday. Many of the documents in question pertain to communications of the chairman of the 2013 redistricting committee, Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, with other people involved in the redistricting, according to a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
Texas: Why Texas is Texas: A gerrymandering case cuts to the core of the state’s transformation | Los Angeles Times
Civil rights groups descended on a San Antonio courthouse Monday to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s current redistricting maps and accuse Republican legislators of deliberately drawing them to dilute the voting power of minorities. The trial is only the latest round in a long-running Texas saga over gerrymandering and race. Voting rights advocates have long accused Texas Republicans of working to undermine the growing political clout of Latino and African American voters by intentionally — and unfairly — cramming them into districts or splitting them up so they are outnumbered. Republican legislators still control roughly two-thirds of State House and Senate and congressional seats.