The bill, HB 574 (pdf), specifies that “knowingly or intentionally” counting invalid votes or refusing to count valid votes, or altering the report to include invalid votes or exclude valid votes, is a second-degree felony offense. The Act goes into effect on Sept. 1.
According to the Texas Penal Code, the punishment for a second-degree felony is jail time no more than 20 years or less than two years, with an optional fine of up to $10,000.
Previously, it was a Class A misdemeanor to intentionally make a vote cast under false pretenses or provide misleading statements or representation on election-related documents, which is punishable by up to one year in jail with an optional fine of up to $4,000.
Abbott didn’t make any comments about signing the law, but said last month that election integrity legislation is one of the current sessions’ “must-pass emergency items.”
Supporters of the bill said it would protect the integrity of elections and give prosecutors more tools to enforce the law.
Opponents argued that the bill could create a chilling effect among individuals seeking to be election workers by “threatening serious criminal penalties over genuine disagreements on the validity of evaluated ballots,” according to the state House research organization report (pdf).
The Republican-led legislature has passed a series of election-related bills and delivered them to Abbott’s desk for signature.
One of them, HB 2283 (pdf), which was delivered to Abbott on May 31, prohibits county election officials from accepting a donation over $1,000 or using the donation to administer elections.
The bill was introduced in response to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s roughly $400 million donations for elections to counties nationwide, the Center Square reported.
BY LI HAI