Gov. Abbott Signs Bill That Makes Election Fraud A Felony

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Matthew Nielsen Contributor
Font Size:

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday signed into law a bill raising election fraud from misdemeanor to a felony.

The bill rectifies a decision made in 2021 to downgrade election fraud to a Class A misdemeanor, according to The Dallas Morning News. Following the 2020 election, Texas introduced sweeping new election laws that restricted overnight voting and banned drive-thru voting, added safeguards to mail-in voting, gave poll watchers freedom of movement in polling places and made it a felony for officials to actively distribute mail-in ballots without request, The Texas Tribune reported at the time.

The 2021 bill also included a provision that reduced the penalty of election fraud from a felony to misdemeanor. The reason behind the provision is murky: The Republican state representative who headed the reclassification, Rep. Steve Allison, claimed the attorney general’s office requested the change, while state Attorney General Ken Paxton denied his office ever made the request, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Brennan Center for Justice counsel Eliza Sweren-Becker a proposed change making it easier to prosecute those accused of voting while ineligible, saying it would “lower the bar for what constitutes fraud,” The Dallas Morning News reported in a separate article. (RELATED: Lawmakers Send Bill Targeting ‘Rogue’ Prosecutors To Texas Governor’s Desk)

“The standard in many, many states is that you have to know that you don’t possess the qualifications for eligibility, not just you have to know a fact that as a result makes you ineligible,” she said.

The bill Gov. Abbot received included the classification switch to felony, but was still a “watered down” version of the Senate proposal to make prosecuting voter fraud more simple, according to The Dallas Morning News. Still, the signing of the bill was met with criticism from some civil rights groups.

“For two years, illegal voting was a Class A misdemeanor in Texas,” Texas Civil Rights Project voting rights attorney Emily Eby French argued. “There was no surge in illegal voting during that time. HB 1243 restores a felony penalty that is based in intimidation and suppression, not in reality.”

Republican state Rep. Cole Hefner argued the classification change will help ensure the public has confidence in Texas elections, according to the outlet.

The Office of Governor Abbott did not immediately responded to the Daily Caller’s request for comment.