SB2 Makes It Scary to Vote, TCRP Fights Back
At the Texas Civil Rights Project, we fight for the civil rights of ALL Texans to take part in the democratic process. Voting is one of the sacred principles that our country and state were founded upon, so why are lawmakers so keen on making it harder for our fellow Texans, particularly those who are Black and Brown, to vote?
Our experts from our Voting Rights team have been busy defending Texans’ right to vote at the Capitol this session. Here is a recap of how we're fighting back SB2 at the capitol.
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We Know SB2 Makes Voting Scary and Confusing for Texans
Voting in Texas is already an ordeal— we think it’s a shame that our state remains one of the hardest to vote in. Our Voting Rights team worked together to speak out against SB2, a nightmare bill that could penalize Texans with a felony over voting mistakes.
Quote from Emily Eby French at the Texas Senate committee hearing on State Affairs on February 27, 2023
If passed, SB2 would do two things that harm voters:
1. Raise the penalty for “illegal voting” or “attempted illegal voting” from a Class A misdemeanor to a felony
2. Remove the protections of the intent requirement in the Election Code
Just over a year ago, the 87th Legislature’s anti-voter omnibus election bill, SB 1, went into effect and lowered the penalty for “illegal voting” from a felony to a class A misdemeanor. Since then, there hasn't been a clear sign that indicates the number of people voting illegally in Texas has gone up (even though it was minimal to begin with).
So contrary to what SB2 supporters may believe, lowering the penalty did not in fact cause Texans to try illegally voting more often; SB2’s author and proven enemy of voting rights, Bryan Hughes, just wants to bring the penalty back to its original value.
The other function of SB2 is to remove the intent requirement. Where the current election law stands right now, a person can be convicted of illegal voting if they knew they were voting illegally.
Under SB2, Texans could be convicted if they "knew of a particular circumstance that made not eligible to vote." This means that a person wouldn't have to know that their conduct violates Texas election law to be convicted of a felony.
It's criminalizing simple, understandable mistakes.
Our Senior Election Protection Attorney, Emily Eby French, breaks down the logic and harms of SB2 perfectly in her Twitter thread here:
Good morning! I have a manila folder and two tote bags so you know what that means… I’m back at the Capitol, ready to livetweet a hearing! pic.twitter.com/eFItQqUfap — Emily Eby French (@emilyebytx) February 27, 2023
On Monday, March 13, SB2 passed Senate party lines and is heading to the Texas House soon. There is still time for our lawmakers to listen to Texans and repeal or modify this legislation to actually protect voters rather than criminalize them.