Over the course of the 87th Texas Legislative Session, Democrats have been working overtime to protect our voter rights. Texas Republicans have introduced many “election integrity” bills, but these bills merely limit early voting and increase penalties for election related errors, among other restrictive measures. However, there is a lack of evidence proving the existence of widespread voter fraud.
We should always seek to ensure that our elections in Texas are safe, secure, and free from fraud. However, there has been a massive overreach of government spending. After a hearing in the House Committee on Elections, my staff requested data and information regarding the total number of convictions related to voter fraud cases dating back to 2015. My staff was provided this information, not through the Attorney General’s office, but through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). According to these records, the total number of convictions related to election fraud offenses since 2015 totals 29, excluding deferred adjudication or diversion programs. The total annual budget authorized for the Election Fraud Section is $2,019,575, however, Texas taxpayers do not need their hard-earned dollars spent on the non-existent problem of widespread voter fraud. The least we deserve is transparency from the Attorney General’s Office, given their massive allocation of funds.
On Thursday, April 22, 2021 Texas’ state budget for the next biennium was debated on the House Floor, and an amendment of mine relating to increased transparency in the Attorney General’s was adopted. This amendment requires the Office of the Attorney General to submit a quarterly report to the House and Senate on how much money they are spending on election or voting-related litigation during the previous quarter. Last year, the Attorney General of Texas sued the states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in the United States Supreme Court, despite zero evidence of election fraud, against the advice of experts, and even after being called out by election officials in all four states.
As a member of the House Committee on Elections, I have heard bills that seek to expand the power of the Attorney General’s Office – if and when that happens, the Attorney General’s Office needs to be held accountable for their received funding. With a budget of over two million dollars, Texans deserve transparency and accountability from the Attorney General’s Office. Accountability is essential for the integrity of our democracy.
Texas Republicans have fallen into the Trump Lie about the “stolen” 2020 election; over the course of the 87th Texas Legislative Session, they have filed an assortment of bills that feed into this lie. The facts are in the numbers, rather than this false rhetoric. House Bill 6 and Senate Bill 7 are the infamous voter suppression bills that I have been vigorously fighting over the course of this session. As a member of the Elections Committee, I have endured the brunt of the battle. Upon its initial introduction, these bills faced opposition by the public, major corporations, Texas Democrats, and the media. On May 6, Senate Bill 7 was heard in lieu of House Bill 6… which led to deliberations until the wee hours of night. Senate Bill 7 eventually passed the Texas House on third reading, with all Democratic Representatives voting against the bill.
This bill attempts to secure the ballot, and although it might, it may also have a detrimental impact towards certain communities. It is my hope that voters will not be intimidated by this bill and will continue to make their voice heard at the ballot box. I offered an amendment to HB 6, which would bring vote centers to Denton County. This amendment, previously referred to as HB 661, would allow Denton County residents to vote at any polling location on Election Day – which is currently not available.
The end of the 87th Texas Legislative Session is on the horizon. As we move forward, it is important that Texans stay involved in their local government and are informed about the bills passed this session. People can get involved in the fight for voting rights, in the future, by reaching out to their elected State Representatives, and by providing testimony on election bills that they feel strongly about. There are avenues to make your voice heard, so utilize them. People must stay informed about what is happening in their state legislature, and continue to seek transparency from their State Representatives. We must hold our Legislators accountable, rather than allowing them to make false claims without sufficient evidence to back up their statements. I will continue to be transparent, as a Legislator, with my constituents and Texans across the state.
Michelle Beckley is the State Representative for House District 65 in Carrollton
Photo: Mark Felix for The Washington Post via Getty Images