Bill Text: TX HB3970 | 2021-2022 | 87th Legislature | Comm Sub


Bill Title: Relating to the acceptance and counting of early voting ballots voted by mail.

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Republican 1-0)

Status: (Introduced) 2021-05-05 - Committee report sent to Calendars [HB3970 Detail]

Download: Texas-2021-HB3970-Comm_Sub.html
  87R22052 SLB-F
 
  By: Vasut H.B. No. 3970
 
  Substitute the following for H.B. No. 3970:
 
  By:  Jetton C.S.H.B. No. 3970
 
 
 
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
 
AN ACT
  relating to the acceptance and counting of early voting ballots
  voted by mail.
         BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
         SECTION 1.  Sections 87.041(a), (b), (c), (d), (e), and (g),
  Election Code, are amended to read as follows:
         (a)  Except as provided by Subsection (d), the [The] early
  voting ballot board shall inspect and open each jacket envelope and
  carrier envelope for an early voting ballot voted by mail and
  determine whether to accept the voter's ballot for counting.
         (b)  A ballot may be accepted for counting only if:
               (1)  the carrier envelope certificate is properly
  executed;
               (2)  [neither] the voter's signature on the ballot
  application and [nor] the signature on the carrier envelope
  certificate are [is] determined to have been executed by the voter
  and not by a person other than the voter, unless signed by a
  witness;
               (3)  the voter's ballot application states a legal
  ground for early voting by mail;
               (4)  the voter is registered to vote, if registration
  is required by law;
               (5)  the ground for early voting is absence from the
  county of residence and the address to which the ballot was mailed
  to the voter, as indicated by the application, was outside the
  voter's county of residence[, if the ground for early voting is
  absence from the county of residence];
               (6)  for a voter to whom a statement of residence form
  was required to be sent under Section 86.002(a), the statement of
  residence is returned in the carrier envelope and indicates that
  the voter satisfies the residence requirements prescribed by
  Section 63.0011; and
               (7)  the address to which the ballot was mailed to the
  voter is an address that is otherwise required by Sections 84.002
  and 86.003.
         (c)  If a ballot is accepted for counting, the board shall
  enter the voter's name on the poll list unless the form of the list
  makes it impracticable to do so. The names of the voters casting
  ballots by mail shall be listed separately on the poll list from
  those casting ballots by personal appearance.
         (d)  A ballot shall be rejected if any requirement prescribed
  by Subsection (b) is not satisfied. In that case, the board:
               (1)  may not open the carrier envelope; and
               (2)  shall indicate the rejection by entering
  "rejected" on the carrier envelope and on the corresponding jacket
  envelope.
         (e)  In making the determination under Subsection (b)(2),
  the board may also compare the signatures with any [two or more]
  signatures of the voter made within the preceding six years and on
  file with the county clerk or voter registrar to determine whether
  the signatures are those of the voter.
         (g)  A person commits an offense if the person intentionally
  accepts a ballot for counting [voting] or causes a ballot to be
  accepted for counting [voting] that the person knows does not meet
  the requirements of Subsection (b). An offense under this
  subsection is a Class A misdemeanor.
         SECTION 2.  Section 87.042, Election Code, is amended by
  amending Subsections (a), (c), and (d) and adding Subsection (e) to
  read as follows:
         (a)  Once a ballot has been accepted for counting, the [The]
  early voting ballot board shall open each carrier envelope
  containing the [an] accepted ballot without defacing the
  certificate on the carrier envelope and remove the ballot envelope
  from the carrier envelope. If the ballot is to be counted at a
  central counting station, the early voting ballot board and the
  signature verification committee may not open the official ballot
  envelope of an accepted ballot.
         (c)  The official ballot envelope must be placed in a
  separate container if:
               (1)  the ballots are to be counted at a central counting
  station; or
               (2)  the procedure for counting the early voting votes
  cast by personal appearance is different from that for counting the
  votes cast by mail.
         (d)  An accepted ballot that was not returned in the official
  ballot envelope shall be treated as an accepted ballot that was
  returned in the official ballot envelope.
         (e)  A poll watcher is entitled to observe the acceptance of
  early voting ballots voted by mail, including the work of the early
  voting ballot board and any signature verification committee. The
  poll watcher must be able to determine how the ballots are opened
  and distributed and how the early voting ballot board and any
  signature verification committee are making decisions about the
  acceptance of ballots, if applicable. The poll watchers must
  comply with all provisions of this code when carrying out their
  duties.
         SECTION 3.  Section 87.044, Election Code, is amended by
  adding Subsection (c) to read as follows:
         (c)  The provisions of Subsections (a) and (b) may be waived
  if the application, the federal postcard application, if
  applicable, and the cover sheet are maintained and retrievable in
  an electronic format for at least 22 months from the date of the
  last election to which those documents were applicable.
         SECTION 4.  The heading to Section 87.102, Election Code, is
  amended to read as follows:
         Sec. 87.102.  SCANNING AND DUPLICATING PAPER BALLOTS FOR
  AUTOMATIC COUNTING.
         SECTION 5.  Section 87.102, Election Code, is amended by
  amending Subsection (a) and adding Subsection (c) to read as
  follows:
         (a)  The authority adopting an electronic voting system in
  which ballots are counted at a central counting station may direct
  by resolution, order, or other official action that the early
  voting regular paper ballots cast in an election be scanned and put
  into a format that allows the ballots to be counted by the 
  [duplicated as electronic system ballots for] automatic counting
  equipment at the central counting station. The presiding judge and
  alternate presiding judge must be present and shall observe the
  process of scanning.
         (c)  A ballot that is damaged or unreadable by the scanning
  equipment used under this section may be duplicated as described by
  this subsection. In the general election for state and county
  officers, teams of two people, one designated by the chair of the
  party whose candidate for governor received the highest number of
  votes in the county in the most recent gubernatorial general
  election, and one designated by the chair of the party whose
  candidate received the second highest number of votes in that
  election, shall copy the ballot onto a new ballot from the same
  precinct and ballot style and shall write on the new ballot the
  serial numbers of both the original and duplicate ballots in an ink
  that cannot be read by the scanning equipment. The presiding and
  alternate judges of the central counting station may inspect both
  the original and the duplicate ballot to verify the accuracy of the
  duplication. Each member of the duplication team shall sign their
  names and print their names in a legible manner in a log of
  duplications.
         SECTION 6.  Section 87.103, Election Code, is amended by
  amending Subsection (b) and adding Subsections (c) and (d) to read
  as follows:
         (b)  The early voting returns prepared at the central
  counting station must include any early voting results obtained by
  the early voting ballot board under Subchapter [Subchapters] D [and
  E].
         (c)  If the automatic counting equipment discovers an
  overvote in a scanned ballot, the presiding and alternate judges of
  the central counting station, with the assistance of their clerks,
  shall examine the ballot and jointly determine the intention of the
  voter. If they are unable to make a determination of the voter's
  intention, the vote in the race in which the overvote appears may
  not be counted and the votes in the other races on the ballot shall
  be counted.
         (d)  A poll watcher is entitled to observe the work of the
  central counting station, including the counting of ballots. The
  poll watcher must be able to determine how the ballots are counted
  and how the presiding and alternate judges of the central counting
  station are making decisions about the acceptance of ballots, if
  applicable. The poll watchers must comply with all provisions of
  this code when carrying out their duties.
         SECTION 7.  This Act takes effect September 1, 2021.
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