Bill Text: TX SB1535 | 2021-2022 | 87th Legislature | Introduced


Bill Title: Relating to the practices and procedures related to early voting by mail, including the participation of watchers; modifying and increasing criminal penalties.

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Republican 1-0)

Status: (Introduced) 2021-03-24 - Referred to State Affairs [SB1535 Detail]

Download: Texas-2021-SB1535-Introduced.html
  87R10801 MLH-F
 
  By: Buckingham S.B. No. 1535
 
 
 
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
 
AN ACT
  relating to the practices and procedures related to early voting by
  mail, including the participation of watchers; modifying and
  increasing criminal penalties.
         BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
         SECTION 1.  Section 33.004(b), Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         (b)  To be eligible to participate in the appointment under
  this section of a watcher for a precinct polling place, [a person
  must be a registered voter of the precinct. To be eligible to
  participate in the appointment under this section of a watcher for]
  an early voting polling place, a countywide polling place, the
  meeting place of an early voting ballot board or signature
  verification committee, or a central counting station, a person
  must be a registered voter of the territory served by that facility.
         SECTION 2.  Section 33.006(b), Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         (b)  A certificate of appointment must:
               (1)  be in writing and signed by the appointing
  authority or, for an appointment for a write-in candidate under
  Section 33.004, by each of the voters making the appointment;
               (2)  indicate the capacity in which the appointing
  authority is acting;
               (3)  state the name, residence address, and voter
  registration number of the appointee and be signed by the
  appointee;
               (4)  identify the election and the precinct polling
  place or other location at which the appointee is to serve;
               (5)  in an election on a measure, identify the measure
  if more than one is to be voted on and state which side of the
  measure the appointee represents; and
               (6)  contain an affidavit executed by the appointee
  stating that the appointee will not use [have possession of] a
  device capable of recording images or sound [or that the appointee
  will disable or deactivate the device] while serving as a watcher,
  except as provided by Section 61.014(b).
         SECTION 3.  Section 33.007(a), Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         (a)  Each appointing authority may appoint not more than two
  watchers for each precinct polling place, meeting place for an
  early voting ballot board or signature verification committee, or
  central counting station involved in the election.
         SECTION 4.  Section 33.051(a), Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         (a)  A watcher appointed to serve at a precinct polling
  place, a meeting place for an early voting ballot board or signature
  verification committee, or a central counting station must deliver
  a certificate of appointment to the presiding judge at the time the
  watcher reports for service. A watcher appointed to serve at an
  early voting polling place must deliver a certificate of
  appointment to the early voting clerk or deputy clerk in charge of
  the polling place when the watcher first reports for service.
         SECTION 5.  Section 33.054, Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 33.054.  HOURS OF SERVICE AT MEETING OF EARLY VOTING
  BALLOT BOARD OR SIGNATURE VERIFICATION COMMITTEE [MEETING]. (a) A
  watcher serving at the meeting place of an early voting ballot board
  or signature verification committee may be present at any time the
  board or committee is processing or counting ballots and until the
  board or committee completes its duties. The watcher may serve
  during the hours the watcher chooses, except as provided by
  Subsection (b).
         (b)  A watcher serving at the meeting place of an early
  voting ballot board may not leave during voting hours on election
  day without the presiding judge's permission if the board has
  recorded any votes cast on voting machines or counted any ballots,
  unless the board has completed its duties and has been dismissed by
  the presiding judge.
         SECTION 6.  Section 33.060(a), Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         (a)  On request of a watcher, an election officer who
  delivers election records from a precinct polling place, an early
  voting polling place, a meeting place for an early voting ballot
  board or signature verification committee, or a central counting
  station shall permit the watcher appointed to serve at that
  location to accompany the officer in making the delivery.
         SECTION 7.  Section 61.014(b), Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         (b)  A person, other than a watcher solely recording the
  counting of ballots, may not use any mechanical or electronic means
  of recording images or sound within 100 feet of a voting station.
         SECTION 8.  Section 64.036(d), Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         (d)  An offense under this section is a state jail felony
  [Class A misdemeanor].
         SECTION 9.  Sections 82.002(a) and (b), Election Code, are
  amended to read as follows:
         (a)  A qualified voter is eligible for early voting by mail
  if the voter cannot appear at the polling place during the early
  voting period and on election day without assistance due to:
               (1)  illness;
               (2)  injury;
               (3)  medical confinement as directed by a health care
  professional; or
               (4)  mental or physical impairment [has a sickness or
  physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the
  polling place on election day without a likelihood of needing
  personal assistance or of injuring the voter's health].
         (b)  An application for a ballot to be voted by mail under
  Subsections (a)(1) through (3) must include or be accompanied by a
  certificate of a licensed physician or chiropractor or accredited
  Christian Science practitioner in substantially the following
  form:
               "This is to certify that I personally know that
  __________ has a sickness or physical condition that will prevent
  him or her from appearing at a polling place without a likelihood of
  needing personal assistance or of injuring his or her health.
               "Witness my hand at __________, Texas, this __________
  day of __________, 20___.
               ________________________________
               (signature of physician,
               chiropractor, or practitioner)
               ________________________________
               (printed name of physician,
               chiropractor, or practitioner)"
  [Expected or likely confinement for childbirth on election day is
  sufficient cause to entitle a voter to vote under Subsection (a)].
         SECTION 10.  Chapter 82, Election Code, is amended by adding
  Section 82.008 to read as follows:
         Sec. 82.008.  GUIDANCE ON ELIGIBILITY. (a) A public
  official may not issue a communication concerning eligibility for
  early voting by mail without approval from the secretary of state.
         (b)  The secretary of state may direct a public official to
  use a preapproved communication under Subsection (e).
         (c)  A public official who issues a communication without
  approval under Subsection (a) shall:
               (1)  retract the communication; and
               (2)  provide an alternative approved communication in
  the same manner as the unapproved communication was provided.
         (d)  A violation of this section is enforceable exclusively
  through a petition for a writ of mandamus under Section 273.061.
         (e)  The secretary of state may prescribe approved
  communications regarding eligibility for early voting by mail. A
  public official who issues these communications without
  modification or addition is considered to be issuing an approved
  communication.
         SECTION 11.  Sections 84.001(b) and (c), Election Code, are
  amended to read as follows:
         (b)  An application must be in writing and signed in ink by
  the applicant. An electronic or photocopied signature is not
  permitted.
         (c)  An applicant is [not] required to use an official
  application form.
         SECTION 12.  Section 84.002, Election Code, is amended by
  adding Subsection (c) to read as follows:
         (c)  An application may not be accepted if the application
  was provided to the voter with the grounds for eligibility already
  marked.
         SECTION 13.  The heading to Section 84.004, Election Code,
  is amended to read as follows:
         Sec. 84.004.  UNLAWFULLY ASSISTING OR WITNESSING
  APPLICATION FOR MORE THAN ONE APPLICANT.
         SECTION 14.  Sections 84.004(a), (b), and (c), Election
  Code, are amended to read as follows:
         (a)  A person commits an offense if:
               (1)  the person signs an application for a ballot to be
  voted by mail as a witness for more than one applicant in the same
  election; [or]
               (2)  the person assists more than one applicant, in the
  applicant's presence, in completing an early voting ballot
  application for the same election; or
               (3)  the person signs an application for annual ballots
  by mail as a witness for more than one applicant in the same
  calendar year.
         (b)  It is an exception to the application of Subsection (a)
  that the person [signed early voting ballot applications for more
  than one applicant]:
               (1)  acted as an early voting clerk or deputy early
  voting clerk; or
               (2)  [and the person] is related to the additional
  applicants as a parent, grandparent, spouse, child, or sibling.
         (c)  An application made in [A] violation of this section is
  not valid [does not affect the validity of an application involved
  in the offense].
         SECTION 15.  Section 84.012, Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 84.012.  CLERK TO MAIL APPLICATION FORM ON REQUEST. (a)
  The early voting clerk shall mail without charge an appropriate
  official application form for an early voting ballot to each
  applicant requesting the clerk to send the applicant an application
  form.
         (b)  The early voting clerk may only mail an application form
  to a voter if:
               (1)  the voter requests an application form; or
               (2)  the clerk confirms that the voter is eligible for
  early voting by mail on the grounds of age.
         SECTION 16.  Section 84.031, Election Code, is amended by
  amending Subsection (b) and adding Subsection (c) to read as
  follows:
         (b)  A person whose application is canceled by returning the
  person's ballot in accordance with Section 84.032, if otherwise
  eligible, may vote in the same manner as if the application had not
  been submitted.
         (c)  A person whose application is canceled in any other
  manner may cast a provisional ballot under Section 63.011.
         SECTION 17.  Section 84.032, Election Code, is amended by
  amending Subsection (c) and adding Subsections (g), (h), and (i) to
  read as follows:
         (c)  An applicant may submit a request after the close of
  early voting by personal appearance by appearing in person and:
               (1)  returning the ballot to be voted by mail to the
  early voting clerk; or
               (2)  executing an affidavit that the applicant:
                     (A)  has not received the ballot to be voted by
  mail; [or]
                     (B)  never requested a ballot to be voted by mail;
  or
                     (C)  received notice of a defect under Section
  87.028(b) or 87.0411(b).
         (g)  The early voting clerk shall deliver each request for
  cancellation to the early voting ballot board to ensure a canceled
  ballot is not counted.
         (h)  The early voting clerk and presiding election judge
  shall keep a log of each ballot returned and shall provide a copy of
  the log to the early voting ballot board to ensure that the canceled
  ballot is not counted in the election. Returned ballots must be kept
  in a secure container with a chain of custody maintained by the
  early voting clerk.
         (i)  The log under Subsection (h) shall include for each
  entry:
               (1)  the voter's name;
               (2)  an identification number unique to the voter;
               (3)  the voter's signature; and
               (4)  the date and time the application was returned.
         SECTION 18.  Section 84.033, Election Code, is amended by
  adding Subsection (e) to read as follows:
         (e)  The election officer shall electronically submit a
  record to the secretary of state of each application canceled in a
  primary, a runoff primary, a general election, or any special
  election ordered by the governor on the day the application is
  canceled.
         SECTION 19.  Section 86.001(a), Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         (a)  The early voting clerk shall review each application for
  a ballot to be voted by mail and verify the eligibility of the
  applicant to vote by mail.
         SECTION 20.  Chapter 86, Election Code, is amended by adding
  Section 86.0011 to read as follows:
         Sec. 86.0011.  SIGNATURE VERIFICATION. (a) Consistent with
  guidance and training from the secretary of state, the early voting
  clerk or early voting ballot board, as appropriate, shall compare
  the signature on each voter's ballot application, except those
  signed for a voter by a witness, with the signature on the voter's
  voter registration application to determine whether the signatures
  are those of the voter. The clerk or 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. Except as provided by Subsection (b), a determination under
  this subsection by an early voting ballot board that the signature
  on the application is not that of the voter must be made by a
  majority vote of the board's membership. The board shall place the
  applications of voters whose signatures are not those of the voter
  in separate containers from those of voters whose signatures are
  those of the voter. The presiding judge or chair, as applicable,
  shall deliver the accepted applications to the early voting clerk
  for processing under Section 86.001. All other applications
  reviewed by the early voting ballot board shall be processed under
  Section 86.0012.
         (b)  If more than 12 members are appointed to serve on the
  early voting ballot board, as applicable, the early voting clerk
  may designate two or more subcommittees of not less than six
  members. If subcommittees have been designated, a determination
  under Subsection (a) is made by a majority of the subcommittee.
         (c)  If ballot materials or ballot applications are recorded
  electronically as provided by Section 87.126, the early voting
  ballot board may use an electronic copy of a signature or the
  voter's ballot application in making the comparison under
  Subsection (a).
         (d)  While the board is reviewing signatures, an equal number
  of members from each political party that submitted names under
  Section 87.002(c) shall be present to the extent practicable.
         (e)  If a signature verification committee has been
  appointed under Section 87.027, the signature verification
  committee performs the duties assigned by this section to the early
  voting ballot board.
         SECTION 21.  Chapter 86, Election Code, is amended by adding
  Section 86.0012 to read as follows:
         Sec. 86.0012.  OPPORTUNITY TO CORRECT APPLICATION DEFECT.
  (a) This section applies to an early voting ballot application
  that:
               (1)  the voter did not sign, unless the application was
  signed by a witness;
               (2)  cannot immediately be determined to contain the
  signature of the voter;
               (3)  is missing any required information; or
               (4)  contains incomplete information concerning a
  witness.
         (b)  Before rejecting a timely delivered application, the
  early voting clerk or early voting ballot board, as appropriate,
  may:
               (1)  return the application to the voter by mail, if the
  clerk or board determines that it would be possible to correct the
  defect and return the application by the deadline under Section
  84.007;
               (2)  notify the voter of the defect by telephone or
  e-mail and inform the voter that the voter may submit a new
  application before the deadline under Section 84.007; or 
               (3)  if the defect is related to the voter's signature,
  notify the voter that the voter may either appear in person and
  present an acceptable form of identification under Section 63.0101
  to sign the application in the presence of the early voting clerk or
  submit a copy of an acceptable form of identification described by
  Section 63.0101 with a new or corrected application submitted by
  mail.
         (c)  The early voting clerk or early voting ballot board may
  not resolve the defect in a manner not described by Subsection (b),
  including in-person visits to the voter at a location other than the
  early voting clerk's office, or communication that is entirely
  electronic or telephonic.
         (d)  The early voting clerk shall keep a log of all
  applications corrected under this section, which shall include:
               (1)  the name of the voter;
               (2)  an identification number unique to the voter;
               (3)  the voter's signature;
               (4)  the date and time the application was received;
  and
               (5)  the action taken under Subsection (b).
         (e)  If a new or corrected application is submitted under
  Subsection (b)(3), the signature on the application shall be
  accepted as that of the voter, and a copy of the signature shall be
  retained by the early voting clerk for use in future elections. 
         (f)  A poll watcher is entitled to observe any action taken
  under Subsection (b).
         (g)  The secretary of state may prescribe procedures
  necessary to implement this section.
         SECTION 22.  Section 86.0015(a), Election Code, is amended
  to read as follows:
         (a)  This section applies only to an application for a ballot
  to be voted by mail that:
               (1)  [indicates the ground of eligibility is age or
  disability; and
               [(2)] does not specify the election for which a ballot
  is requested or has been marked by the applicant as an application
  for more than one election; and
               (2)  contains an attestation that the voter:
                     (A)  is not less than 65 years of age; or
                     (B)  has a mental or physical impairment under
  Section 82.002(a)(4) that:
                           (i)  will persist for not less than one
  calendar year; and
                           (ii)  is supported by written documentation
  under Section 13.002(i)(1).
         SECTION 23.  Section 86.009(e), Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         (e)  A voter's defective ballot that is timely returned to
  the clerk as a marked ballot shall be treated as:
               (1)  a marked ballot not timely returned if the
  corrected ballot is timely returned as a marked ballot by the close
  of the polls on election day; or
               (2)  as the voter's ballot for the election if the
  corrected ballot is not timely returned by the close of the polls on
  election day.
         SECTION 24.  Section 86.010, Election Code, is amended by
  amending Subsections (d) and (e) and adding Subsections (k) and (l)
  to read as follows:
         (d)  A voter's ballot may not be counted if:
               (1)  the [If a] voter is assisted in violation of this
  section; or
               (2)  a person who assists the voter to prepare a ballot
  to be voted by mail fails to comply with Subsection (e)[, the
  voter's ballot may not be counted].
         (e)  A person who assists a voter to prepare a ballot to be
  voted by mail shall enter the person's signature, printed name,
  [and] residence address, relationship to the voter, and the manner
  in which the person assisted the voter on the official carrier
  envelope of the voter.
         (k)  An employee of a state licensed care facility who
  commits an offense under this section involving a voter who resides
  in that facility shall be added to the employee misconduct registry
  established under Section 253.007, Health and Safety Code.
         (l)  The text of the oath under Subsection (c) shall read as
  follows:
               "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 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; and
                     "I have not been compensated for assisting the
  voter.
               "I understand that if I violate these requirements, I am
  committing a criminal offense."
         SECTION 25.  Section 86.013(b), Election Code, is amended 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.
         SECTION 26.  Section 87.002, Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 87.002.  COMPOSITION OF BOARD. (a) The early voting
  ballot board consists of a presiding judge, an alternate presiding
  judge, and at least two other members.
         (b)  Except as provided by Subsection (d), the presiding
  judge and the alternate presiding judge are [is] appointed in the
  same manner as a presiding election judge under Section 32.002.
  Except as provided by Subsection (c), the other members are
  appointed by the presiding judge in the same manner as the precinct
  election clerks.
         (c)  In the general election for state and county officers,
  each county chair of a political party with nominees on the general
  election ballot shall submit to the county election board a list of
  names of persons eligible to serve on the early voting ballot board.
  The county election board shall appoint at least one person from
  each list to serve as a member of the early voting ballot board. The
  same number of members must be appointed from each list. If a county
  chair does not submit a list, the state chair of the political party
  shall, not later than the fifth day after being notified in writing
  of the county chair's failure to submit a list, submit the list.
         (d)  In addition to the members appointed under Subsection
  (c), the county election board shall appoint the presiding judge
  from the list provided under that subsection by the political party
  whose nominee for governor received the most votes in the county in
  the most recent gubernatorial general election and the alternate
  presiding judge from the list provided under that subsection by the
  political party whose nominee for governor received the second most
  votes in the county in the most recent gubernatorial election.
         SECTION 27.  Section 87.027, Election Code, is amended by
  amending Subsections (a-1), (d), and (i) and adding Subsection (n)
  to read as follows:
         (a-1)  A signature verification committee shall be appointed
  in the general election for state and county officers on submission
  to the early voting clerk of a written request for the committee by
  at least 15 registered voters of the county. The request must be
  submitted not later than the preceding August [October] 1, and a
  request submitted by mail is considered to be submitted at the time
  of its receipt by the clerk.
         (d)  The early voting clerk shall determine the number of
  members who are to compose the signature verification committee and
  shall state that number in the order calling for the committee's
  appointment. A committee must consist of not fewer than five
  members. In an election in which party alignment is indicated on the
  ballot, each county chair of a political party with a nominee or
  aligned candidate on the ballot shall submit to the appointing
  authority a list of names of persons eligible to serve on the
  signature verification committee. The authority shall appoint at
  least two persons from each list to serve as members of the
  committee. The same number of members must be appointed from each
  list. The authority shall appoint the chair of the committee from
  the list provided by the political party whose nominee for governor
  received the most votes in the county in the most recent
  gubernatorial general election. The authority shall also appoint a
  vice chair of the committee from the list provided by the political
  party whose nominee for governor received the second most votes in
  the county in the most recent gubernatorial general election. If a
  county chair does not submit a list, the state chair of the
  political party shall, not later than the fifth day after being
  notified in writing of the county chair's failure to submit a list,
  submit the list. A vacancy on the committee shall be filled by
  appointment from the original list or from a new list submitted by
  the appropriate county chair.
         (i)  Consistent with guidance and training from the
  secretary of state, the [The] signature verification committee
  shall compare the signature on each carrier envelope certificate,
  except those signed for a voter by a witness, with the signature on
  the voter's ballot application to determine whether the signatures
  are those of the voter. The committee 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. Except as provided by Subsection (l), a determination under
  this subsection that the signatures are not those of the voter must
  be made by a majority vote of the committee's membership. If a tie
  vote of the committee's membership occurs, the committee chair
  shall determine whether the signatures are those of the voter and
  affix the committee chair's determination and signature to the
  carrier envelope. The committee shall place the jacket envelopes,
  carrier envelopes, and applications of voters whose signatures are
  not those of the voter in separate containers from those of voters
  whose signatures are those of the voter. The committee chair shall
  deliver the sorted materials to the early voting ballot board at the
  time specified by the board's presiding judge.
         (n)  While the committee is reviewing signatures, an equal
  number of committee members from each political party that
  submitted names under Section 87.002(c) shall be present to the
  extent practicable.
         SECTION 28.  Subchapter B, Chapter 87, Election Code, is
  amended by adding Section 87.028 to read as follows:
         Sec. 87.028.  OPPORTUNITY TO CORRECT DEFECT: SIGNATURE
  VERIFICATION COMMITTEE. (a) This section applies to an early voting
  ballot voted by mail that:
               (1)  has a carrier envelope certificate that:
                     (A)  the voter did not sign; or
                     (B)  cannot immediately be determined to contain
  the signature of the voter;
               (2)  is missing a required statement of residence; or
               (3)  contains incomplete information concerning a
  witness or assistant.
         (b)  Before rejecting a timely delivered ballot under
  Section 87.027, the signature verification committee may:
               (1)  return the carrier envelope to the voter by mail,
  if the signature verification committee determines that it would be
  possible to correct the defect and return the carrier envelope
  before the time the polls are required to close on election day; or
               (2)  notify the voter of the defect by telephone or
  e-mail and inform the voter that the voter may come to the early
  voting clerk's office in person before the time the polls are
  required to close on election day and present an acceptable form of
  identification under Section 63.0101 to:
                     (A)  correct the defect; or
                     (B)  request to have the voter's application to
  vote by mail canceled under Section 84.032.
         (c)  The signature verification committee may not resolve
  the defect in a manner not described by Subsection (b), including
  in-person visits to the voter at a location other than the early
  voting clerk's office, or communication that is entirely electronic
  or telephonic.
         (d)  The early voting clerk shall maintain a log of all
  ballots corrected under this section, which shall include:
               (1)  the name of the voter;
               (2)  an identification number unique to the voter;
               (3)  the voter's signature;
               (4)  the date and time the ballot was received; and
               (5)  the action taken under Subsection (b).
         (e)  A poll watcher is entitled to observe any action taken
  under Subsection (b).
         (f)  The secretary of state may prescribe procedures
  necessary to implement this section.
         SECTION 29.  Section 87.041, Election Code, is amended by
  adding Subsections (b-1) and (h) to read as follows:
         (b-1)  A ballot sent to an applicant following submission of
  a federal postcard application under Chapter 101 may not be
  accepted if it is determined after sending the ballot to the
  applicant that the applicant was not eligible to be registered with
  the information provided on the application.
         (h)  A poll watcher accepted for service under Chapter 33 may
  challenge the acceptance of any early voting ballot voted by mail
  under this section by bringing attention of an irregularity or a
  violation of law to a chair of the early voting ballot board, who
  shall resolve the challenge by majority vote of the early voting
  ballot board.
         SECTION 30.  Subchapter C, Chapter 87, Election Code, is
  amended by adding Section 87.0411 to read as follows:
         Sec. 87.0411.  OPPORTUNITY TO CORRECT DEFECT: EARLY VOTING
  BALLOT BOARD. (a) This section applies to an early voting ballot
  voted by mail that:
               (1)  has a carrier envelope certificate that:
                     (A)  the voter did not sign; or
                     (B)  cannot immediately be determined to contain
  the signature of the voter;
               (2)  is missing a required statement of residence; or
               (3)  contains incomplete information concerning a
  witness or assistant.
         (b)  Before rejecting a timely delivered ballot under
  Section 87.041, the early voting ballot board may:
               (1)  return the carrier envelope to the voter by mail,
  if the early voting ballot board determines that it would be
  possible to correct the defect and return the carrier envelope
  before the time the polls are required to close on election day; or
               (2)  notify the voter of the defect by telephone or
  e-mail and inform the voter that the voter may come to the early
  voting clerk's office in person before the time the polls are
  required to close on election day and present an acceptable form of
  identification under Section 63.0101 to:
                     (A)  correct the defect; or
                     (B)  request to have the voter's application to
  vote by mail canceled under Section 84.032.
         (c)  The early voting ballot board may not resolve the defect
  in a manner not described by Subsection (b), including in-person
  visits to the voter at a location other than the early voting
  clerk's office, or communication that is entirely electronic or
  telephonic.
         (d)  The early voting clerk shall maintain a log of all
  ballots corrected under this section, which shall include:
               (1)  the name of the voter;
               (2)  an identification number unique to the voter;
               (3)  the voter's signature;
               (4)  the date and time the ballot was received; and
               (5)  the action taken under Subsection (b).
         (e)  A poll watcher is entitled to observe any action taken
  under Subsection (b).
         (f)  The secretary of state may prescribe procedures
  necessary to implement this section.
         SECTION 31.  Section 87.042(b), Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         (b)  The [Except as provided by Subsection (c), the] board
  shall place the ballot envelope containing an accepted ballot in a
  separate container from the ballot box containing the early voting
  ballots voted by personal appearance.
         SECTION 32.  Sections 87.062(a) and (c), Election Code, are
  amended to read as follows:
         (a)  On the direction of the presiding judge, the early
  voting ballot board, in accordance with Section 85.032(b), shall
  open the containers [container] for the early voting ballots that
  are to be counted by the board, remove the contents from the
  containers [container], and remove any ballots enclosed in ballot
  envelopes from their envelopes.
         (c)  Ballots voted by mail shall be tabulated separately from
  ballots voted by personal appearance and shall be separately
  reported on the returns [The results of all early voting ballots
  counted by the board under this subchapter shall be included in the
  same return].
         SECTION 33.  Section 87.103, Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 87.103.  COUNTING BALLOTS AND PREPARING RETURNS. (a)
  The early voting electronic system ballots counted at a central
  counting station, the ballots cast at a precinct polling place, and
  the ballots voted by mail shall be tabulated separately [from the
  ballots cast at precinct polling places] and shall be separately
  reported on the returns.
         (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].
         SECTION 34.  Section 87.126, Election Code, is amended by
  adding Subsection (c) to read as follows:
         (c)  Electronic records made under this section shall record
  both sides of any application, envelope, or ballot recorded, and
  all such records shall be provided to the early voting ballot board,
  the signature verification committee, or both.
         SECTION 35.  Section 101.001, Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 101.001.  ELIGIBILITY. A person is eligible for early
  voting by mail as provided by this chapter if:
               (1)  the person is qualified to vote in this state or,
  if not registered to vote in this state, would be qualified if
  registered; and
               (2)  the person is:
                     (A)  a member of the armed forces of the United
  States, or the spouse or a dependent of a member;
                     (B)  a member of the merchant marine of the United
  States, or the spouse or a dependent of a member; [or]
                     (B-1)  a member of the Texas State Guard, the
  Texas National Guard, the National Guard of another state, or a
  member of a reserve component of the armed forces of the United
  States serving on active duty under an order of the president of the
  United States or activated on state orders, or the spouse or
  dependent of a member; or
                     (C)  domiciled in this state but temporarily
  living outside the territorial limits of the United States and the
  District of Columbia.
         SECTION 36.  Section 101.003(1), Election Code, is amended
  to read as follows:
               (1)  "Federal postcard application" means an
  application for a ballot to be voted under this chapter submitted on
  the official federal form prescribed under the federal Uniformed
  and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (52 U.S.C. Sections
  20301-20311) [(42 U.S.C. Section 1973ff et seq.)].
         SECTION 37.  Section 101.008, Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 101.008.  STATUS OF APPLICATION OR BALLOT VOTED. The
  secretary of state, in coordination with county [local] election
  officials, shall implement an electronic free-access system by
  which a person eligible for early voting by mail under this chapter
  or Chapter 114 may determine by telephone, by e-mail, or over the
  Internet whether:
               (1)  the person's federal postcard application or other
  registration or ballot application has been received and accepted;
  and
               (2)  the person's ballot has been received and the
  current status of the ballot.
         SECTION 38.  Section 101.056(a), Election Code, is amended
  to read as follows:
         (a)  The balloting materials provided under this subchapter
  shall be airmailed to the voter free of United States postage, as
  provided by the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee
  Voting Act (52 U.S.C. Sections 20301-20311) [(42 U.S.C. Section
  1973ff et seq.)], in an envelope labeled "Official Election
  Balloting Material - via Airmail." The secretary of state shall
  provide early voting clerks with instructions on compliance with
  this subsection.
         SECTION 39.  Section 101.057(b), Election Code, is amended
  to read as follows:
         (b)  A ballot voted by a voter described by Section
  101.001(2)(A), [or] (B), or (B-1) shall be counted if the ballot
  arrives at the address on the carrier envelope not later than the
  sixth day after the date of the election, except that if that date
  falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal state or national holiday,
  then the deadline is extended to the next regular business day.
         SECTION 40.  Section 101.058, Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 101.058.  OFFICIAL CARRIER ENVELOPE. The officially
  prescribed carrier envelope for voting under this subchapter shall
  be prepared so that it can be mailed free of United States postage,
  as provided by the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee
  Voting Act (52 U.S.C. Sections 20301-20311) [(42 U.S.C. Section
  1973ff et seq.)], and must contain the label prescribed by Section
  101.056(a) for the envelope in which the balloting materials are
  sent to a voter. The secretary of state shall provide early voting
  clerks with instructions on compliance with this section.
         SECTION 41.  Section 101.102(b), Election Code, is amended
  to read as follows:
         (b)  The early voting clerk shall grant a request made under
  this section for the e-mail transmission of balloting materials if:
               (1)  the requestor has submitted a valid federal
  postcard application and:
                     (A)  if the requestor is a person described by
  Section 101.001(2)(C), has provided a current mailing address that
  is located outside the United States; or
                     (B)  if the requestor is a person described by
  Section 101.001(2)(A), [or] (B), or (B-1), has provided a current
  mailing address that is located outside the [requestor's] county
  where the requestor is registered to vote [of residence];
               (2)  the requestor provides an e-mail address:
                     (A)  that corresponds to the address on file with
  the requestor's federal postcard application; or
                     (B)  stated on a newly submitted federal postcard
  application;
               (3)  the request is submitted on or before the deadline
  prescribed by Section 84.007 [seventh day before the date of the
  election]; and
               (4)  a marked ballot for the election from the
  requestor has not been received by the early voting clerk.
         SECTION 42.  Section 101.107(a), Election Code, is amended
  to read as follows:
         (a)  A voter described by Section 101.001(2)(A), [or] (B), or
  (B-1) must be voting from outside the voter's county of residence. A
  voter described by Section 101.001(2)(C) must be voting from
  outside the United States.
         SECTION 43.  Section 102.002, Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 102.002.  CONTENTS OF APPLICATION. An application for
  a late ballot must comply with the applicable provisions of Section
  84.002 and must include or be accompanied by a certificate of a
  licensed physician or chiropractor or accredited Christian Science
  practitioner in substantially the following form:
         "This is to certify that I know that __________ cannot appear
  at the polling place during the early voting period or on election
  day [has a sickness or physical condition that will prevent him or
  her from appearing at the polling place] for an election to be held
  on the __________ day of __________, 20 [19]___, without [a
  likelihood of needing personal] assistance due to illness, injury,
  prescribed medical confinement, or mental or physical impairment, 
  [or of injuring his or her health] and that the [sickness or
  physical] condition originated on or after __________.
         "Witness my hand at __________, Texas, this __________ day of
  __________, 20 [19]___.
                                       ________________________________
                                       (signature of physician,
                                       chiropractor, or practitioner)"
         SECTION 44.  Section 111.008, Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 111.008.  NOTING RESTRICTED BALLOT VOTER ON POLL LIST
  AND REGISTERED VOTER LIST. (a) For each voter accepted to vote a
  restricted ballot, a notation shall be made beside the voter's name
  on the early voting poll list indicating that a restricted ballot
  was voted and the type of restricted ballot. If the voter's name
  appears on the list of registered voters used for conducting early
  voting, a similar notation shall be made on that list unless the
  form of the list makes it impracticable to do so.
         (b)  The election officer accepting the voter shall
  electronically submit a record to the secretary of state of each
  voter accepted to vote a restricted ballot in a primary, a runoff
  primary, a general election, or any special election ordered by the
  governor not later than the day the voter is accepted.
         SECTION 45.  Chapter 112, Election Code, is amended by
  adding Section 112.0075 to read as follows:
         Sec. 112.0075.  VERIFYING VOTING STATUS OF APPLICANT FOR
  BALLOT. Before accepting an applicant to vote a limited ballot or,
  in the case of an application for a limited ballot to be voted by
  mail, before providing a ballot to the applicant, the early voting
  clerk shall verify, if possible, using the system established by
  the secretary of state, that the applicant has not previously voted
  in any other county in the same election. If the person has applied
  for a ballot to be voted by mail, or has been recorded as voting in
  the same election, the limited ballot application shall be
  rejected.
         SECTION 46.  Section 113.003, Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 113.003.  SUBMITTING APPLICATION FOR MAIL BALLOT. An
  application for a presidential ballot to be voted by mail must be
  submitted to the early voting clerk serving the county of the
  applicant's most recent registration to vote by the deadline under
  Section 84.007.
         SECTION 47.  Section 127.126, Election Code, is amended by
  amending Subsection (f) and adding Subsection (g) to read as
  follows:
         (f)  The duplicate shall be substituted for the original
  ballot in the ballots prepared for automatic counting. The original
  must be clearly labeled "Original," must bear the serial number of
  the duplicate ballot, and shall be preserved with the other voted
  ballots for the same period.
         (g)  When duplicating damaged early voting ballots delivered
  under Section 87.102, the early voting ballot board shall, at the
  request of the central counting station manager, duplicate ballots
  in teams consisting of an equal number of committee members from
  each political party to the extent practicable. Poll watchers are
  entitled to be present and observe the duplication process.
         SECTION 48.  Section 192.033(d), Election Code, is amended
  to read as follows:
         (d)  In conjunction with the certification required under
  Subsection (a), the secretary of state shall include appropriate
  ballot translation language, as applicable, for each language
  certified statewide or in a specific county by the director of the
  census under the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee
  Voting Act (52 U.S.C. Sections 20301-20311) [42 U.S.C. Section
  1973aa-1a].
         SECTION 49.  Section 32.53(a)(2), Penal Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
               (2)  "Exploitation" means the illegal or improper use
  of a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual or of the
  resources of a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual
  for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain, and includes a
  violation of Section 86.010 or 86.0105, Election Code, where the
  offense involves a voter 65 years of age or older or a disabled
  individual.
         SECTION 50.  The following provisions of the Election Code
  are repealed:
               (1)  Section 33.051(c);
               (2)  Section 86.006(a-1);
               (3)  Section 87.042(c); and
               (4)  Section 105.002.
         SECTION 51.  The changes in law made by this Act in amending
  the elements of an offense or repealing or amending the punishments
  for existing criminal offenses apply 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 52.  This Act takes effect September 1, 2021.
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