Civil Rights Groups Warn Texas Senate Bill Could Send People to Jail for Mistakes on Voter Applications

click to enlarge Voters wait in line to cast their ballots at Lion's Field. - SANFORD NOWLIN
Sanford Nowlin
Voters wait in line to cast their ballots at Lion's Field.
After a federal judge blocked the gaffe-ridden voter purge launched by Texas' Republican Secretary of State David Whitley, you'd think the GOP would throttle back its apparent obsession with voter fraud in the state.


Instead, Republicans are gunning forward with Texas Senate Bill 9, a proposal critics charge would scare residents away from the polls by making it a state jail felony to provide incorrect information on an voter application. Currently, that's a Class B misdemeanor.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, has defended the steeply increased penalty, saying it gives prosecutors a bigger stick to go after fraudsters. 

But, in a letter to Hughes, voting rights advocates warned the legislation would make voting more difficult for thousands of Texans "by spreading fear that people may be thrown in jail for honest mistakes while trying to vote.”

Compounding that concern, Texas has a long history of using erroneous claims of voter fraud to keep likely Democratic voters away from the polls. The state now faces a U.S. House investigation and several lawsuits over Whitley's bungled purge, which included the incorrect claim that 95,000 non-citizens may be registered to vote in the state.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has flagged SB 9 is one of 30 priority bills he wants to push through before the end of the legislative session.

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