After signing bill that cut illegal-voting penalties, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott now wants them increased

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference. - Courtesy Photo / Office of the Governor
Courtesy Photo / Office of the Governor
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference.

On Thursday, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott asked the Texas Legislature to stiffen criminal punishment for early voting. That demand comes less than a month after he signed a bill that reduced the same penalty.

Under a controversial bill Abbott championed that adds new voting restrictions in the state, the penalty for casting an illegal ballot was cut from a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison to a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year behind bars. The change takes effect in December.

Texas' hard-line punishment for voter fraud came under a national spotlight after North Texas resident Crystal Mason was arrested for casting a ballot she said she didn't know she was ineligible to cast. She could face years in prison.

After Abbott's announcement, Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan fired back via tweet, saying his legislative body is focused on redistricting during the current special session. "Now is not the time to re-litigate,” he added.

The Lege lowered the voting penalties after State Rep. Steve Allison, a San Antonio Republican, tacked an amendment onto the House version of the bill. It remained in the final version, which was approved by the Senate and signed by Abbott.  

The governor's move comes as he stakes out increasingly hard-right positions in what political observers say is a bid to stave off a primary challenge. He's running for reelection in 2022.

Last week, hours after former President Donald Trump demanded a partisan investigation of Texas' 2020 election results, Abbott pushed a probe of those results in four of Texas' biggest counties — Harris, Collin, Dallas and Tarrant.

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