Bill Text: TX HB6 | 2021-2022 | 87th Legislature | Introduced


Bill Title: Relating to election integrity and preservation of the purity of the ballot box through the prevention of fraud in the conduct of an election; increasing criminal penalties; creating criminal offenses.

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Republican 62-0)

Status: (Introduced) 2021-04-08 - Reported favorably as substituted [HB6 Detail]

Download: Texas-2021-HB6-Introduced.html
 
 
  By: Cain H.B. No. 6
 
 
 
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
 
AN ACT
  relating to election integrity and preservation of the purity of
  the ballot box through the prevention of fraud in the conduct of an
  election; increasing criminal penalties; creating criminal
  offenses.
         BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
  ARTICLE 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS
         SECTION 1.01.  SHORT TITLE. This Act may be cited as the
  Election Integrity Protection Act of 2021.
         SECTION 1.02.  PURPOSE. The purpose of this Act is to
  exercise the legislature's constitutional authority under Section
  4, Article VI, Texas Constitution, to make all laws necessary to
  detect and punish fraud and preserve the purity of the ballot box.
         SECTION 1.03.  FINDINGS. The legislature finds that:
               (1)  full, free, and fair elections are the
  underpinnings of a stable constitutional democracy;
               (2)  fraud in elections threatens the stability of a
  constitutional democracy by undermining public confidence in the
  legitimacy of public officers chosen by election;
               (3)  reforms are needed to the election laws of this
  state to ensure that fraud does not undermine the public confidence
  in the electoral process;
               (4)  Section 4, Article VI, Texas Constitution entrusts
  the enactment of laws to combat fraud in the electoral process to
  the sound discretion of the legislature; and
               (5)  the reforms to the election laws of this state made
  by this Act are not intended to impair the right of free suffrage
  guaranteed to the people of Texas by the United States and Texas
  Constitution, but are enacted solely to prevent fraud in the
  electoral process.
         SECTION 1.04.  Chapter 1, Election Code, is amended by
  adding Section 1.0015 to read as follows:
         Sec. 1.0015.  LEGISLATIVE INTENT. To reduce the likelihood
  of fraud in the conduct of elections, it is the intent of the
  legislature that the provisions of this code shall be applied
  evenly, and the conduct of elections throughout this state shall be
  uniform and consistent.
         SECTION 1.05.  Section 1.003, Election Code, is amended by
  adding Subsection (c) to read as follows:
         (c)  The provisions of this code shall be strictly construed
  by a public official to effect the intent of the legislature under
  Section 1.0015.
         SECTION 1.06.  Section 1.005, Election Code, is amended by
  adding Subdivision (15-a) to read as follows:
               (15-a)  "Public official" means a person elected,
  selected, appointed, employed, or otherwise designated as an
  officer, employee, or agent of this state, a government agency, a
  political subdivision, or any other public body established by
  state law.
  ARTICLE 2. REGISTRATION AND CONDUCT OF ELECTIONS
         SECTION 2.01.  Sections 16.001(a) and (b), Election Code,
  are amended to read as follows:
         (a)  Each month the local registrar of deaths shall prepare
  an abstract of each death certificate issued in the month for a
  decedent 18 years of age or older who was a resident of the state at
  the time of death. The local registrar of deaths shall file each
  abstract with the voter registrar of the decedent's county of
  residence and the secretary of state as soon as possible, but not
  later than one [the 10th] day after [of the month following the
  month in which] the abstract is prepared.
         (b)  Each month the clerk of each court having probate
  jurisdiction shall prepare an abstract of each application for
  probate of a will, administration of a decedent's estate, or
  determination of heirship, and each affidavit under Chapter 205,
  Estates Code, that is filed in the month with a court served by the
  clerk. The clerk shall file each abstract with the voter registrar
  and the secretary of state as soon as possible, but not later than
  one [the 10th] day after [of the month following the month in which]
  the abstract is prepared.
         SECTION 2.02.  Subchapter C, Chapter 125, Election Code, is
  amended by adding Section 125.0621 to read as follows:
         Sec. 125.0621.  LOGS OF ISSUED AND SPOILED BALLOTS. If an
  electronic voting system uses paper media for recording votes cast,
  the election officer shall maintain a record of the serial numbers
  of all ballots issued at that polling place and the serial numbers
  of any spoiled ballots, if any. All logs maintained under this
  section are election records subject to public inspection as
  provided by Section 1.012.
  ARTICLE 3. ELECTION OFFICERS AND OBSERVERS
         SECTION 3.01.  Section 32.075, Election Code, is amended by
  amending adding Subsection (g) to read as follows:
         (g)  A presiding judge may not:
               (1)  have a watcher appointed under Subchapter A,
  Chapter 33, removed from the polling place; or
               (2)  require a watcher appointed under Subchapter A,
  Chapter 33, to leave the polling place.
         SECTION 3.02.  Subchapter D, Chapter 32, Election Code, is
  amended by adding Section 32.077 to read as follows:
         Sec. 32.077.  REMOVAL OF A POLL WATCHER FROM POLLING PLACE.
  A poll watcher may be removed from a polling place only if the poll
  watcher engages in activity that would constitute an offense
  related to election fraud, including an offense under Chapter 276.
         SECTION 3.03.  Chapter 33, Election Code, is amended by
  adding Section 33.0015 to read as follows:
         Sec. 33.0015.  PURPOSE. The purpose of this chapter is to
  preserve the purity of the ballot box in accordance with Section 4,
  Article VI, Texas Constitution, by providing for the appointment of
  watchers to observe the conduct of an election and call to the
  attention of an election officer potential irregularities or
  violations of law in the conduct of the election.
         SECTION 3.04.  Section 33.051, Election Code, is amended by
  adding Subsections (g) and (h) to read as follows:
         (g)  An election officer commits an offense if the officer
  intentionally or knowingly refuses to accept a watcher for service
  when acceptance of the watcher is required by this section.
         (h)  An offense under Subsection (g) is a Class B
  misdemeanor.
         SECTION 3.05.  Subchapter C, Chapter 33, Election Code, is
  amended by adding Section 33.0605 to read as follows:
         Sec. 33.0605.  OBSERVING DATA STORAGE SEALING AND TRANSFER.
  A watcher appointed to serve at a polling place in an election may
  observe the sealing and transfer of a memory card, flash drive, hard
  drive, data storage device, or other medium now existing or later
  developed used by the voting system equipment.
         SECTION 3.06.  The heading to Section 33.061, Election Code,
  is amended to read as follows:
         Sec. 33.061.  UNLAWFULLY OBSTRUCTING OR REMOVING WATCHER.
         SECTION 3.07.  Section 33.061(a), Election Code, is amended
  to read as follows:
         (a)  A person commits an offense if the person serves in an
  official capacity at a location at which the presence of watchers is
  authorized and knowingly prevents a watcher from observing an
  activity the watcher is entitled to observe, including by having a
  watcher removed from the polling place or requiring a watcher to
  leave the polling place, unless the watcher engages in activity
  that would constitute an offense related to election fraud,
  including an offense under Chapter 276.
         SECTION 3.08.  Section 61.001, Election Code, is amended by
  amending Subsection (a) and adding Subsection (a-1) to read as
  follows:
         (a)  Except as permitted by this code and as described by
  Subsection (a-1), a person may not be in the polling place from the
  time the presiding judge arrives there on election day to make the
  preliminary arrangements until the precinct returns have been
  certified and the election records have been assembled for
  distribution following the election.
         (a-1)  Under this code, a person may be lawfully present in a
  polling place during the time described by Subsection (a) if the
  person is:
               (1)  an election judge or clerk;
               (2)  a watcher;
               (3)  the secretary of state;
               (4)  a staff member of the elections division of the
  secretary of state's office when performing an official duty
  authorized under this code;
               (5)  a staff member of an election official or sheriff,
  only when delivering election supplies;
               (6)  a state inspector;
               (7)  a person admitted to vote;
               (8)  a child under 18 years of age who is accompanying a
  parent who has been admitted to vote;
               (9)  a person providing assistance to a voter under
  Section 61.032 or 64.032;
               (10)  a person accompanying a disabled voter;
               (11)  a special peace officer appointed by the
  presiding judge under Section 32.075;
               (12)  the county chair of a political party conducting
  a primary election, as authorized by Section 172.1113;
               (13)  a voting system technician, as authorized by
  Section 125.010;
               (14)  the county elections administrator only when
  performing an official duty authorized by this code;
               (15)  a person whose presence has been authorized by
  the presiding judge and the alternate presiding judge in accordance
  with this code.
         SECTION 3.09.  Section 86.006, Election Code, is amended by
  amending Subsection (a-1) to read as follows:
         (a-1)  The voter may deliver a marked ballot in person to the
  early voting clerk's office only while the polls are open on
  election day. A voter who delivers a marked ballot in person must
  present an acceptable form of identification described by Section
  63.0101.  A poll watcher is entitled to observe the delivery of
  ballots under this subsection. The poll watcher must be able to
  determine how the ballots are being delivered and how election
  officials are making decisions about the delivery of ballots, if
  applicable. The poll watcher may not disrupt the process of
  delivering ballots.
         SECTION 3.10.  Section 87.026, Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 87.026.  BYSTANDERS EXCLUDED. (a) Except as permitted
  by this code and as described by Subsection (b), a person may not be
  in the meeting place of an early voting ballot board during the time
  of the board's operations.
         (b)  Under this code, a person may be lawfully present in the
  meeting place of an early voting ballot board during the time of the
  board's operations if the person is:
               (1)  a presiding judge or member of the board;
               (2)  a watcher;
               (3)  a voting system technician, as authorized by
  Section 125.010;
               (4)  a county elections administrator only when
  performing an official duty authorized by this code; or
               (5)  a person whose presence has been authorized by the
  presiding judge and the alternate presiding judge in accordance
  with this code.
         SECTION 3.11.  Subchapter A, Chapter 127, Election Code, is
  amended by adding Section 127.008 to read as follows:
         Sec. 127.008.  BYSTANDERS EXCLUDED.  (a)  Except as
  permitted by this code and as described by Subsection (b), a person
  may not be in a central counting station while ballots are being
  counted.
         (b)  Under this code, a person may be lawfully present in the
  central counting station while ballots are being counted if the
  person is:
               (1)  a counting station manager, tabulation
  supervisor, assistant to the tabulation supervisor, presiding
  judge, or clerk;
               (2)  a watcher;
               (3)  a voting system technician, as authorized by
  Section 125.010;
               (4)  a county elections administrator only when
  performing an official duty authorized by this code; or
               (5)  a person whose presence has been authorized by the
  counting station manager in accordance with this code.
  ARTICLE 4. ASSISTANCE OF VOTERS
         SECTION 4.01.  Subchapter B, Chapter 64, Election Code, is
  amended by adding Section 64.0322 to read as follows:
         Sec. 64.0322.  SUBMISSION OF FORM BY ASSISTANT.  (a)  A
  person, other than an election officer, who assists a voter in
  accordance with this chapter is required to complete a form
  stating:
               (1)  the name and address of the person assisting the
  voter;
               (2)  the manner in which the person is assisting the
  voter;
               (3)  the reason the assistance is necessary; and
               (4)  the relationship of the assistant to the voter.
         (b)  When submitting the form required by this section, a
  person must present an acceptable form of identification described
  by Section 63.0101.
         (c)  The secretary of state shall prescribe the form required
  by this section. The form must be incorporated into the official
  carrier envelope if the voter is voting an early voting ballot by
  mail and receives assistance under Section 86.010, or must be
  submitted to an election officer at the time the voter casts a
  ballot if the voter is voting at a polling place or under Section
  64.009.
         SECTION 4.02.  Section 64.034, Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 64.034.  OATH. A person selected to provide assistance
  to a voter must take the following oath, administered by an election
  officer at the polling place, before providing assistance:
         "I swear (or affirm) that I will not suggest, by word, sign,
  or gesture, how the voter should vote; I will confine my assistance
  to answering the voter's questions, to stating propositions on the
  ballot, and to naming candidates and, if listed, their political
  parties; I will prepare the voter's ballot as the voter directs; I
  did not pressure or intimidate the voter into choosing me to provide
  assistance; and I am not the voter's employer, an agent of the
  voter's employer, or an officer or agent of a labor union to which
  the voter belongs."
         SECTION 4.03.  Section 86.0052, Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 86.0052.  COMPENSATION FOR CARRIER ENVELOPE ACTION
  PROHIBITED. (a)  A person commits an offense if the person:
               (1)  compensates or offers to compensate another person
  for depositing the carrier envelope in the mail or with a common or
  contract carrier as provided by Section 86.0051(b)[, as part of any
  performance-based compensation scheme based on the number of
  ballots deposited or in which another person is presented with a
  quota of ballots to deposit as provided by Section 86.0051(b)]; or
               (2)  [engages in another practice that causes another
  person's compensation from or employment status with the person to
  be dependent on the number of ballots deposited as provided by
  Section 86.0051(b); or
               [(3)]  [with knowledge that accepting compensation for
  such activity is illegal,] solicits, receives, or accepts
  compensation for an activity described by Subdivision (1) [or (2)].
         (b)  [Except as provided by Subsection (c), an offense under
  this section is a misdemeanor punishable by:
               (1)  confinement in jail for a term of not more than one
  year or less than 30 days; or
               (2)  confinement described by Subdivision (1) and a
  fine not to exceed $4,000.
         (c)]  An offense under this section is a state jail felony if
  it is shown on the trial of an offense under this section that the
  defendant was previously convicted two or more times under this
  section.
         (c) [(d)]  An officer, director, or other agent of an entity
  that commits an offense under this section is punishable for the
  offense.
         (d) [(e)]  For purposes of this section, compensation means
  any form of monetary payment, goods, services, benefits, or
  promises or offers of employment, political favor, official act of
  discretion, or any other form of consideration offered to another
  person in exchange for depositing ballots.
         SECTION 4.04.  Section 86.010, Election Code, is amended by
  amending Subsections (e), (h), and (i) and adding Subsection (i-1)
  to read as follows:
         (e)  A person who assists a voter to prepare a ballot to be
  voted by mail shall enter on the official carrier envelope of the
  voter:
               (1)  the person's signature, printed name, and
  residence address;
               (2)  the manner of any assistance provided to the voter
  by the person; and
               (3)  the relationship of the person providing the
  assistance to the voter [on the official carrier envelope of the
  voter].
         (h)  Subsection (f) does not apply to:
               (1)  a violation of Subsection (c), if the person is
  related to the voter within the second degree by affinity or the
  third degree by consanguinity, as determined under Subchapter B,
  Chapter 573, Government Code, or was physically living in the same
  dwelling as the voter at the time of the event; or
               (2)  a violation of Subsection (e), if the person is
  related to the voter within the second degree by affinity or the
  third degree by consanguinity, as determined under Subchapter B,
  Chapter 573, Government Code.
         (i)  An offense under this section for a violation of
  Subsection (c) is increased to the next higher category of offense
  if it is shown on the trial of an offense under this section that:
               (1)  the defendant was previously convicted of an
  offense under this code;
               (2)  the offense involved a voter 65 years of age or
  older; or
               (3)  the defendant committed another offense under this
  section in the same election.
         (i-1)  An offense under this section for a violation of
  Subsection (e) is a felony of the third degree if it is shown on the
  trial of the offense that the person committed an offense under
  Section 64.036 for providing unlawful assistance to the same voter
  in connection with the same ballot.
         SECTION 4.05.  Section 86.0105, Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 86.0105.  COMPENSATION FOR ASSISTING VOTERS
  PROHIBITED. (a)  A person commits an offense if the person:
               (1)  compensates or offers to compensate another person
  for assisting voters as provided by Section 86.010[, as part of any
  performance-based compensation scheme based on the number of voters
  assisted or in which another person is presented with a quota of
  voters to be assisted as provided by Section 86.010]; or
               (2)  [engages in another practice that causes another
  person's compensation from or employment status with the person to
  be dependent on the number of voters assisted as provided by Section
  86.010; or
         [(3)]  [with knowledge that accepting compensation for such
  activity is illegal,] solicits, receives, or accepts compensation
  for an activity described by Subdivision (1) [or (2)].
         (b)  [Except as provided by Subsection (c), an offense under
  this section is a misdemeanor punishable by:
               (1)  confinement in jail for a term of not more than one
  year or less than 30 days; or
               (2)  confinement described by Subdivision (1) and a
  fine not to exceed $4,000.
         (c)]  An offense under this section is a state jail felony
  [if it is shown on the trial of an offense under this section that
  the defendant was previously convicted two or more times under this
  section].
         (c) [(d)]  An officer, director, or other agent of an entity
  that commits an offense under this section is punishable for the
  offense.
         (d) [(e)]  For purposes of this section, compensation means
  any form of monetary payment, goods, services, benefits, or
  promises or offers of employment, political favor, official act of
  discretion, or any other form of consideration offered to another
  person in exchange for assisting voters.
         SECTION 4.06.  Section 86.013, Election Code, is amended by
  amending Subsection (b) to read as follows:
         (b)  Spaces must appear on the reverse side of the official
  carrier envelope for:
               (1)  indicating the identity and date of the election;
  [and]
               (2)  entering the signature, printed name, and
  residence address of a person other than the voter who deposits the
  carrier envelope in the mail or with a common or contract carrier;
  and
               (3)  indicating the manner of any assistance provided
  by a person assisting the voter, and the relationship of that person
  to the voter.
  ARTICLE 5. FRAUD AND UNLAWFUL PRACTICES
         SECTION 5.01.  Chapter 63, Election Code, is amended by
  adding Section 63.0111 to read as follows:
         Sec. 63.0111.  OFFENSES RELATED TO PROVISIONAL VOTING. (a)  
  An election judge commits an offense if the judge knowingly
  provides a voter with a form for an affidavit required by Section
  63.001 if the form contains false information entered thereon by
  the judge.
         (d)  An offense under this section is a state jail felony.
         SECTION 5.02.  Section 64.012(a), Election Code, is amended
  to read as follows:
         (a)  A person commits an offense if the person:
               (1)  votes or attempts to vote in an election in which
  the person knows the person is not eligible to vote;
               (2)  knowingly votes or attempts to vote more than once
  in an election;
               (3)  knowingly votes or attempts to vote a ballot
  belonging to another person, or by impersonating another person;
  [or]
               (4)  knowingly marks or attempts to mark any portion of
  another person's ballot without the consent of that person, or
  without specific direction from that person how to mark the ballot;
  or
               (5)  knowingly votes or attempts to vote in an election
  in this state after voting in an election in another state that is
  held on the same day.
         SECTION 5.03.  Sections 276.012, Election Code, is amended
  to read as follows:
         Sec. 276.012.  ENGAGING IN ORGANIZED ELECTION FRAUD
  ACTIVITY. (a)  A person commits an offense if, with the intent to
  establish, maintain, further, or participate in a vote harvesting
  organization, the person:
               (1)  commits or conspires to commit one or more
  offenses under Titles 1 through 7;
               (2)  directly or through a third party, provides or
  offers to provide vote harvesting services to a candidate for
  office in exchange for compensation or other benefit;
               (3)  directly, or through a third party, offers or
  provides compensation or other benefit to another person in
  exchange for vote harvesting services; or
               (4)  knowingly collects or possesses a mail ballot or
  official carrier envelope from a voter in connection with vote
  harvesting services.
         (b)  An offense listed under Subsections (a)(2), (3), or (4)
  is a third degree felony. Except as provided by Subsection (c), an
  offense listed under Subsection (a)(1) is one category higher than
  the most serious offense listed in Subsection (a)(1) that is
  committed, and if the most serious offense is a Class A misdemeanor,
  the offense is a state jail felony. If conduct that constitutes an
  offense under this section also constitutes an offense under any
  other law, the actor may be prosecuted under this section, the other
  law, or both.
         (c)  At the punishment stage of a trial, the defendant may
  raise the issue as to whether in voluntary and complete
  renunciation of the offense the defendant withdrew from the vote
  harvesting organization before commission of an offense listed in
  Subsection (a)(1) and made substantial effort to prevent the
  commission of the offense. If the defendant proves the issue in the
  affirmative by a preponderance of the evidence, the offense is the
  same category of offense as the most serious offense listed in
  Subsection (a)(1) that is committed.
         (d)  In this section: [,]
               (1)  "Benefit" has the meaning assigned by Section
  36.01(3), Penal Code.
               (2)  "Vote [vote] harvesting organization" means three
  or more persons who collaborate in committing offenses under Titles
  1 through 7, although participants may not know each other's
  identity, membership in the organization may change from time to
  time, and participants may stand in a candidate-consultant,
  donor-consultant, consultant-field operative, or other arm's
  length relationship in the organization's operations; and
               (3)  "Vote harvesting services" means personal
  services that include direct interaction with one or more voters in
  connection with an official ballot, ballot by mail, or an
  application for ballot by mail that are performed with the
  intention that ballot be cast for a specific candidate or measure.
         SECTION 5.04.  Sections 276.013(a) and (b), Election Code,
  is amended to read as follows:
         (a)  A person commits an offense if the person knowingly or
  intentionally makes any effort to:
               (1)  influence the independent exercise of the vote of
  another in the presence of the ballot or during the voting process;
               (2)  cause a voter to become registered, a ballot to be
  obtained, or a vote to be cast under false pretenses; [or]
               (3)  count invalid votes or alter a report to include
  invalid votes;
               (4)  fail to count valid votes or alter a report to
  exclude valid votes; or
               [(3)(5)  cause any intentionally misleading
  statement, representation, or information to be provided:
                     (A)  to an election official; or
                     (B)  on an application for ballot by mail, carrier
  envelope, or any other official election-related form or document.
         (b)  An offense under this section is a felony of the second
  degree [Class A misdemeanor].
         SECTION 5.05.  Chapter 276, Election Code, is amended by
  adding Sections 276.014, 276.015, 276.016, 276.017, and 276.018 to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 276.015.  UNLAWFUL SOLICITATION OR DISTRIBUTION OF
  APPLICATION TO VOTE BY MAIL.  (a)  This section applies to an
  application to vote by mail required under Section 84.001.
         (b)  A public official commits an offense if the public
  official knowingly:
               (1)  solicits the submission of an application by a
  person who did not request the application;
               (2)  distributes an application to a person who did not
  request the application, unless the distribution is expressly
  authorized by another provision of this code;
               (3)  authorizes the expenditure of public funds to
  facilitate third party distribution of an application to a person
  who did not request the application; or
               (4)  completes any portion of an application to vote by
  mail and distributes the application to an applicant with intent
  that the applicant will submit the application on the applicant's
  behalf to the early voting clerk.
         (c)  An offense under this section is a state jail felony.
         (d)  It is an exception to the application of Subsection
  (b)(4) that the public official lawfully assisted the applicant as
  authorized under Section 84.003.
         Sec. 276.016.  UNLAWFUL DISTRIBUTION OF BALLOTS AND
  BALLOTING MATERIALS. (a)  The early voting clerk or other election
  official may not knowingly mail or distribute a ballot or balloting
  materials for an early voting ballot to be voted by mail to a person
  other than the applicant who submitted the application required by
  Section 84.001.
         (b)  A person who violates this section commits an offense.
  An offense under this section is a state jail felony.
         Sec. 276.017.  PERJURY IN CONNECTION WITH CERTAIN VOTING
  PROCEDURES.  (a)  A person commits an offense if, with intent to
  deceive and with knowledge of the statement's meaning, the person
  makes a false statement when making the oath described by Section
  64.034 or swears to the truth of a false statement previously made
  when making the oath described by Section 64.034.
         (b)  An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor
  except that the punishment for an offense under this section is a
  state jail felony if it is shown on the trial of the offense that the
  person made a false statement under Subsection (a) three or more
  times in connection with a single election.
         Sec. 276.018.  UNLAWFUL ALTERING OF ELECTION PROCEDURES.
  (a)  A public official may not knowingly issue an order altering or
  suspending an election standard, practice, or procedure mandated by
  law or rule unless the alteration or suspension is expressly
  authorized under this code.
         (b)  It is an exception to the application of this provision
  that a public official seeking to alter any voting standard,
  practice, or procedure in a manner not otherwise expressly
  authorized by the Election Code:
               (1)  first requested approval of the proposed
  alteration from the secretary of state by submitting a written
  request for approval to the secretary of state; and
               (2)  the secretary of state by written order approved
  the proposed alteration requested under Subdivision (1).
         (c)  A public official who violates this section commits an
  offense. An offense under this section is a state jail felony.
  ARTICLE 6. ENFORCEMENT
         SECTION 6.01.  Chapter 2, Code of Criminal Procedure, is
  amended by adding Section 2.075 to read as follows:
         Art. 2.075.  ATTORNEY PRO TEM IN CERTAIN ELECTION CASES. (a)
  If an attorney for the state is presented with the requisite number
  of affidavits under Section 273.001, Election Code, on or after the
  60th day before the date of a regular or special election that
  allege criminal conduct that would constitute an offense under
  Chapter 276, Election Code, the attorney for the state shall
  determine if the investigation can be conducted expeditiously by
  the attorney or the attorney's staff so that a presentation of an
  information or indictment may be made in time to prevent ongoing or
  deter future criminal activity constituting an offense under
  Chapter 276, Election Code.
         (b)  The attorney for the state shall make the determination
  required under Subsection (a) not later than the 48th hour after the
  affidavits are presented.
         (c)  If the attorney for the state determines that an
  investigation cannot be completed expeditiously as provided by
  Subsection (a), the attorney shall notify the presiding judge of
  the court of criminal appeals not later than the 24th hour after the
  time of determination. A three-judge panel shall be appointed as
  provided under Subsection (d). The panel shall appoint, from any
  county or district, an attorney for the state to perform the duties
  of the office in connection with the investigation of the presented
  affidavits.
         (d)  The presiding judge of the court of criminal appeals
  shall appoint a three-judge panel in the same manner and under the
  same conditions as the appointment by the chief justice of the
  supreme court of a three-judge panel under Chapter 22A, Government
  Code.
         (b)  An attorney pro tem appointed under this article is
  subject to the limitations in Article 2.07(b).
         (c)  In this article, "attorney for the state" has the
  meaning assigned by Article 2.07(d).
         SECTION 6.02.  Subchapter A, Chapter 22, Government Code, is
  amended by adding Section 22.0015 to read as follows:
         Sec. 22.0015.  PRIORITY OF APPEALS IN CERTAIN ELECTION
  CASES. Beginning on the 60th day before the date of a regular or
  special election, the supreme court must give absolute preference
  to a matter that is related to a request for injunctive relief under
  Section 273.081, Election Code, that is prompted by an allegation
  of activity that would constitute an offense under Chapter 276,
  Election Code. After assignment of the matter under Section
  22.222(b), the supreme court shall promptly hear the appeal, by
  electronic means or otherwise, after the clerk of the court
  receives a written request for oral argument. The supreme court
  must hear an appeal under this section not later than the 24th hour
  after the time the last brief permitted to be filed in the appeal is
  filed.
         SECTION 6.03.  Chapter 22, Government Code, is amended by
  adding Section 22.2205 to read as follows:
         Sec. 22.2205.  PRIORITY OF APPEALS IN CERTAIN ELECTION
  CASES. Beginning on the 60th day before the date of a regular or
  special election, a court of appeals must give absolute preference
  to a matter that is related to a request for injunctive relief under
  Section 273.081, Election Code, that is prompted by an allegation
  of activity that would constitute an offense under Chapter 276,
  Election Code. After assignment of the matter under Section
  22.222(b), the court of appeals shall promptly hear the appeal, by
  electronic means or otherwise, after the clerk of the court
  receives a written request for oral argument. A court of appeals
  shall hear an appeal under this section not later than the 24th hour
  after the time the last brief permitted to be filed in the appeal is
  filed.
         SECTION 6.04.  Section 22.222, Government Code, is amended
  by amending Subsection (b) and adding Subsections (a-1) and (b-1)
  to read as follows:
         (b)  If more than one panel is used, the court of appeals
  shall establish rules to periodically rotate the justices among the
  panels. Permanent civil panels and criminal panels without rotation
  may not be established. Notwithstanding any other law, including a
  rule adopted under Sec. 22.004 or a local rule of administration,
  all cases entitled to priority treatment under Section 23.101(b-1)
  in the courts of appeals shall be docketed by the clerk of the court
  and assigned by the clerk to a panel of three judges assigned using
  an automated system.
         (b-1)  It is an offense for any person, including a public
  official, to communicate with a clerk of the court in an attempt to
  influence the assignment of or withhold the assignment of a justice
  identified by name or political party to a panel hearing an appeal.
  An offense under this subsection is a state jail felony. As used in
  the section, the term "public official" has the meaning assigned by
  Section 1.005(15-a), Election Code.
         SECTION 6.05.  Section 23.101, Government Code, is amended
  by amending Subsection (b) and adding Subsection (b-1) read as
  follows
         (b)  Insofar as practicable, and except as provided by
  Subsection (b-1), the trial courts shall observe the preference
  provided by Subsection (a) in ruling on, hearing, and trying the
  matters pending before the courts.
         (b-1)  Beginning on the 60th day before the date of a regular
  or special election, a trial court must give absolute preference to
  a matter under Subsection (a)(1) that is a request for injunctive
  relief under Section 273.081, Election Code, that is prompted by an
  allegation of activity that would constitute an offense under
  Chapter 276, Election Code. After assignment of the matter under
  Section 24.035, the trial court shall promptly conduct a hearing,
  by electronic means or otherwise, after the judge receives a
  written hearing request. A trial court must hear a matter under
  this subsection not later than the 24th hour after the time the
  hearing request was received.
         SECTION 6.06.  Chapter 24, Government Code, is amended by
  adding Section 24.035 to read as follows:
         Sec. 24.035.  ASSIGNMENT OF CASES IN DISTRICT COURTS IN
  CERTAIN ELECTION CASES. (a)  Notwithstanding any other law to the
  contrary, including a rule adopted under Sec. 22.004 or a local
  rule of administration, all cases entitled to priority treatment
  under Section 23.101(b-1) in the district courts of a county shall
  be docketed and assigned at random by the district clerk using an
  automated system.
         (b)  In assigning a case to a district court, the district
  clerk shall take into consideration any requirement in law that a
  district court in that county give preference to specific matters.
         (c)  If a county court has concurrent jurisdiction with a
  district court over cases entitled to priority treatment under
  Section 23.101(b-1), the county clerk shall perform the duties of
  the district clerk under Subsections (a) and (b).
         (d)  It is an offense for a person, including a public
  official, to communicate with a district or county clerk in an
  attempt to influence the assignment of cases or withhold the
  assignment of cases to a judge identified by name or political
  party. An offense under this subsection is a state jail felony. As
  used in the section, the term "public official" has the meaning
  assigned by Section 1.005(15-a), Election Code.
  ARTICLE 7. TRANSITION; EFFECTIVE DATE
         SECTION 7.01.  The change in law made by this Act applies
  only to an offense committed on or after the effective date of this
  Act. An offense committed before the effective date of this Act is
  governed by the law in effect on the date the offense was committed,
  and the former law is continued in effect for that purpose. For
  purposes of this section, an offense was committed before the
  effective date of this Act if any element of the offense occurred
  before that date.
         SECTION 7.02.  This Act takes effect September 1, 2021.
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