Greg Abbott

Texas Senate Passes Bill Making Illegal Voting a Felony

Bill to increase the criminal penalty for illegal voting moves from the Texas Senate to the House

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The Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 2 Monday, which would increase the penalty for illegal voting in the state to a second-degree felony

The bill, which Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick considered a top priority in this year's legislative session, would change the current state law, passed in 2021, which made illegal voting a Class A misdemeanor.

The 19-12 vote Monday was split between party lines with 19 Republicans voting for the measure and all 12 Democrats voting nay. The bill now moves on to the Texas House for consideration.

Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas Chapter of the NAACP, expressed opposition to the bill at a committee hearing last month.

“I think it is really an abomination,” said Bledsoe, who said it could turn minor mistakes into serious felonies. “It will have a chilling effect on African-Americans and Latinos who understand that they are likely to become the next Hervis Rogers or the next Crystal Mason."

Crystal Mason was a Fort Worth woman sentenced to five years in jail after she filled out a provisional ballot while under supervised release. Mason later said she did not know she was not eligible to vote at the time.

In May, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered a lower court to review whether there was sufficient evidence to convict Mason. The court’s majority determined that Texas election law requires that individuals know they are ineligible to vote to be convicted of illegal voting.

Patrick issued a statement Tuesday in support of the Senate's passage.

"Maintaining the integrity of Texas' elections has been a top priority of mine since I was elected to the Texas Senate and throughout my tenure as Lt. Governor," Patrick said. "For years, I have been explicit in saying that I want to make it easier for Texans to vote and harder to cheat. Voters demand secure elections."

The bill now moves on to the Texas House. If it passes there it'll go into effect on Sept. 1 after being signed by Gov. Greg Abbott who tweeted his support of the bill on Monday night.

"Texas Senate gives first OK to make illegal voting a felony again. You cheat. You go to jail," the governor tweeted.

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