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Responsive Gov’s Grade TL;DR

Texas continues to remain at the bottom of states on voting rights. After passing significant anti-democratic reforms in 2021 that spurred numerous lawsuits and challenges, the Legislature continued to pursue anti-voter policies this past session. The Legislature introduced hundreds of election-related bills, and fortunately, the hard work of pro-voter groups on the ground meant that most of the worst anti-voter bills did not become law. The Legislature did however, manage to pass several pieces of legislation that targeted the election administration process in the state’s largest populated county. With all that considered, Texas received a D on this year’s progress report.

Looking Back

Where Texas Started at the Beginning of 2023

  • Automatic Voter Registration: No
  • Online Voter Registration: No
  • Same-Day Registration: No
  • Restoration of Rights: Parole and/or Probation Disenfranchisement
  • Vote by Mail: Excuse-Only
  • Electronic Registration Information Center Member: Yes
  • Early Voting Opportunities: Regular Ballot Early Voting
  • ID Requirements: Photo ID Requested

Relying on the Cost of Voting Index for Texas as of 2022, we considered the state a bottom tier state for pre-existing voting policy and compared its 2023 activity against other bottom tier states.

How Our Tier Compares

  • COVI (2022): 46th 
  • EPI Score (2020): 34th
  • CLC State Scorecard (2022): 4/10
  • MAP Democracy Rating (2022): LOW

2023: This Past Year

Legislative Action

Once again, the Texas Legislature continued to enact further barriers to voting in the state. This past year, that included passing legislation to control the election administration of the state’s largest county and removing the state from the multi-state list maintenance organization, ERIC, which helped the state keep its voter rolls accurate.

  • Bills targeting Harris County:
    • S 1750 targets Harris County by removing the election administrator position only in counties of 3.2M+.
    • S 1933 authorizes the SOS to order administrative oversight of any county over 4M+.
  • S 1070 authorizes the state to discontinue its membership in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC).
  • H 5180 requires the election records custodian to provide public access to ballot images or cast vote records once the final election canvass is complete and provide access to original voted ballots beginning 61 days after the Election.
  • H 1299 requires voters, and any voter assistant, to include a wet signature on mail ballot envelopes and makes it a crime for an individual assisting a voter to not include their wet signature on the envelope.
  • H 1243 increases the penalties for illegally voting/attempting to illegally vote to a felony.
  • S 1599 establishes notice and cure provisions for voters to correct certain defects on mail ballot applications and ballots. However, the law also needlessly requires signature verification committees to review a voter’s signature even if the voter’s identification number matches voter registration records.
  • H 246 establishes a pilot program in six counties to video record ballot counting and processing.

However, the Texas Legislature also made several positive changes to expand voter access including expanding voter options for individuals with disabilities and extending the required early voting hours to cover all counties, among other things.

  • S 477 expands access for voters with disabilities. It allows voters with mobility issues to bypass any lines at the polls, requires election officials to establish a reserved parking spot for voters that cannot enter the polls, and requires clerks to offer curbside voting procedures for those voters that cannot enter the polls, among other things.
  • H 357 revises the information required to access the online ballot tracking system to require a voter’s DOB instead of their registration address.
  • H 1217 requires all counties to offer 12 consecutive hours of early voting during the final week of early voting- regardless of population size.
  • H 315 adds a disclaimer to the absentee ballot envelope explaining why it is helpful for the voter to include their phone number and how it can assist the county clerk in processing the application.
  • H 1631 no longer requires poll workers to commit to 5 continuous hours to be able to choose the hours they will serve.
  • S 1052 allows poll workers to be paid for up to 2 hours of work completed before the polls open.
  • H 1632 requires the secretary of state to establish a fully online training program for election judges, early voting ballot board members, signature verification committee members, and counting station members.

Executive Action

  • Governor Abbott vetoed H 3159 which would have improved mail ballot access for individuals with disabilities and allowed them to securely and secretly cast a ballot.
  • Secretary of State Jane Nelson officially withdrew the state from ERIC this past October.