Bill Text: TX SB1613 | 2021-2022 | 87th Legislature | Introduced


Bill Title: Relating to early voting ballots voted by mail; creating a criminal offense.

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Republican 1-0)

Status: (Introduced) 2021-03-24 - Referred to State Affairs [SB1613 Detail]

Download: Texas-2021-SB1613-Introduced.html
  87R9715 BRG-D
 
  By: Hall S.B. No. 1613
 
 
 
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
 
AN ACT
  relating to early voting ballots voted by mail; creating a criminal
  offense.
         BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
         SECTION 1.  Subchapter C, Chapter 52, Election Code, is
  amended by adding Section 52.076 to read as follows:
         Sec. 52.076.  IDENTIFYING CODE OR MICROCHIP FOR MAIL-IN
  BALLOTS. (a) Each early voting ballot voted by mail must include a
  unique barcode or microchip used to ensure that the ballot is only
  counted once.
         (b)  No record associating an individual voter with a barcode
  or microchip assigned to a ballot under this section may be created.
         (c)  The secretary of state by rule shall provide for the
  design and distribution of a unique barcode or microchip system in a
  manner that, to the greatest extent possible, prevents the
  unauthorized reproduction or misuse of mail ballots.
         SECTION 2.  Section 82.001(a), Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         (a)  Subject to Subsection (b), a qualified voter is eligible
  for early voting by mail if the voter is unable [expects] to be
  present in [absent from] the county of the voter's residence on
  election day and during [the regular hours for conducting early
  voting at the main early voting polling place for that part of] the
  period for early voting by personal appearance [remaining after the
  voter's early voting ballot application is submitted to the early
  voting clerk].
         SECTION 3.  Section 84.001(b), Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         (b)  An application must be in writing and signed by the
  applicant. An electronic signature that is not hand drawn is not
  permitted.
         SECTION 4.  Section 84.002(a), Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         (a)  An early voting ballot application must include:
               (1)  the applicant's name and the address at which the
  applicant is registered to vote;
               (1-a)  a copy of one form of photo identification
  listed in Section 63.0101(a);
               (2)  for an application for a ballot to be voted by mail
  on the ground of absence from the county of residence, the address
  outside the applicant's county of residence to which the ballot is
  to be mailed;
               (3)  for an application for a ballot to be voted by mail
  on the ground of [age or] disability, the address of the hospital,
  nursing home or other long-term care facility, or retirement
  center, or of a person related to the applicant within the second
  degree by affinity or the third degree by consanguinity, as
  determined under Chapter 573, Government Code, if the applicant is
  living at that address and that address is different from the
  address at which the applicant is registered to vote;
               (4)  [for an application for a ballot to be voted by
  mail on the ground of confinement in jail, the address of the jail
  or of a person related to the applicant within the degree described
  by Subdivision (3);
               [(5)]  for an application for a ballot to be voted by
  mail on any ground, an indication of each election for which the
  applicant is applying for a ballot; and
               (5) [(6)]  an indication of the ground of eligibility
  for early voting.
         SECTION 5.  Section 84.011(a), Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         (a)  The officially prescribed application form for an early
  voting ballot must include:
               (1)  immediately preceding the signature space the
  statement: "I certify that the information given in this
  application is true, and I understand that giving false information
  in this application is a crime.";
               (2)  a statement informing the applicant of the
  offenses prescribed by Sections 84.003 and 84.004;
               (3)  spaces for entering an applicant's voter
  registration number and county election precinct of registration,
  with a statement informing the applicant that failure to furnish
  that information does not invalidate the application; and
               (4)  on an application for a ballot to be voted by mail:
                     (A)  a space for an applicant applying on the
  ground of absence from the county of residence to indicate the date
  on or after which the applicant can receive mail at the address
  outside the county;
                     (B)  a space for indicating the fact that an
  applicant whose application is signed by a witness cannot make the
  applicant's mark and a space for indicating the relationship or
  lack of relationship of the witness to the applicant;
                     (C)  a space for entering an applicant's telephone
  number, with a statement informing the applicant that failure to
  furnish that information does not invalidate the application;
                     (D)  a space or box for an applicant applying on
  the ground of [age or] disability to indicate that the address to
  which the ballot is to be mailed is the address of a facility or
  relative described by Section 84.002(a)(3), if applicable;
                     (E)  [a space or box for an applicant applying on
  the ground of confinement in jail to indicate that the address to
  which the ballot is to be mailed is the address of a relative
  described by Section 84.002(a)(4), if applicable;
                     [(F)]  a space for an applicant applying on the
  ground of [age or] disability to indicate if the application is an
  application under Section 86.0015;
                     (F) [(G)]  spaces for entering the signature,
  printed name, and residence address of any person assisting the
  applicant;
                     (G) [(H)]  a statement informing the applicant of
  the condition prescribed by Section 81.005; and
                     (H) [(I)]  a statement informing the applicant of
  the requirement prescribed by Section 86.003(c).
         SECTION 6.  Subchapter A, Chapter 84, Election Code, is
  amended by adding Sections 84.0111 and 84.015 to read as follows:
         Sec. 84.0111.  UNSOLICITED PROVISION OF OFFICIAL
  APPLICATION FORM. A person may not mail or otherwise provide an
  application form for an early voting ballot to a person who did not
  solicit the form.
         Sec. 84.015.  BIPARTISAN TEAMS FOR ASSISTANCE OF CERTAIN
  INDIVIDUALS. Notwithstanding any other law, each early voting
  clerk shall create a bipartisan team to assist any individual
  confined to a nursing home, hospital, or similar facility during
  the early voting period and on election day with submitting an
  application to vote by mail and with submitting a ballot voted by
  mail.
         SECTION 7.  Section 86.001, Election Code, is amended by
  adding Subsections (f), (h), (i), and (j) to read as follows:
         (f)  If the application does not include a copy of one form of
  photo identification listed in Section 63.0101(a), the clerk shall
  reject the application.
         (h)  The clerk may not mail or otherwise provide an early
  voting ballot to a person who did not submit an application for a
  ballot to be voted by mail.
         (i)  The clerk shall reject an application for a ballot to be
  voted by mail if the clerk determines that the signature on the
  application was executed by a person other than the voter, unless
  the application was signed by a witness. In making the
  determination, the clerk may compare the signature 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.
         (j)  Before the clerk mails or provides a ballot to an
  applicant, the clerk shall identify the unique barcode included on
  the carrier envelope and make a record indicating that a carrier
  envelope with the unique barcode was issued.
         SECTION 8.  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.
         SECTION 9.  Section 86.003(c), Election Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         (c)  The address to which the balloting materials must be
  addressed is the address at which the voter is registered to vote,
  or the registered mailing address if different, unless the ground
  for voting by mail is:
               (1)  absence from the county of residence, in which
  case the address must be an address outside the voter's county of
  residence; or
               (2)  [confinement in jail, in which case the address
  must be the address of the jail or of a relative described by
  Section 84.002(a)(4); or
               [(3)  age or] disability and the voter is living at a
  hospital, nursing home or other long-term care facility, or
  retirement center, or with a relative described by Section
  84.002(a)(3), in which case the address must be the address of that
  facility or relative.
         SECTION 10.  Chapter 86, Election Code, is amended by adding
  Section 86.0053 to read as follows:
         Sec. 86.0053.  WITNESS REQUIRED FOR BALLOTS VOTED BY MAIL.
  (a) A ballot voted by mail in accordance with this chapter is not
  valid unless:
               (1)  the voter signs the carrier envelope in the
  presence of a witness or a notary public; and
               (2)  the witness or notary public signs the carrier
  envelope.
         (b)  A person who serves as a witness must provide the
  person's name, address, and telephone number on the carrier
  envelope.
         (c)  A person may not serve as a witness for more than:
               (1)  one voter under this section who is not related to
  the person within the second degree by affinity or third degree by
  consanguinity, as determined under Subchapter B, Chapter 573,
  Government Code; or
               (2)  five voters under this section who are related to
  the person within the second degree by affinity or third degree by
  consanguinity, as determined under Subchapter B, Chapter 573,
  Government Code.
         (d)  The secretary of state shall adopt rules and prescribe
  procedures as necessary to implement this section.
         SECTION 11.  Section 86.006(a-1), Election Code, is amended
  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. The ballot drop-off location at the early voting clerk's
  office must be located in a secure setting and under 24-hour
  security and video surveillance.
         SECTION 12.  Chapter 86, Election Code, is amended by adding
  Section 86.0061 to read as follows:
         Sec. 86.0061.  PROHIBITION ON VOTE HARVESTING OF MAIL IN
  BALLOTS. (a) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly
  collects or possesses a ballot voted by mail or official carrier
  envelope from a voter for the purpose of delivering votes for a
  specific candidate or measure.
         (b)  An offense under this section is a felony of the third
  degree punishable by imprisonment in the Texas Department of
  Criminal Justice for a term not to exceed five years, a fine not to
  exceed $5,000, or both the imprisonment and the fine.
         SECTION 13.  Sections 86.007(a), (d), and (e), Election
  Code, are amended to read as follows:
         (a)  Except as provided by Subsection (d), a marked ballot
  voted by mail must arrive at the address on the carrier envelope[:
               [(1)]  before the time the polls are required to close
  on election day[; or
               [(2)  not later than 5 p.m. on the day after election
  day, if the carrier envelope was placed for delivery by mail or
  common or contract carrier before election day and bears a
  cancellation mark of a common or contract carrier or a courier
  indicating a time not later than 7 p.m. at the location of the
  election on election day].
         (d)  A marked ballot voted by mail that arrives after the
  time prescribed by Subsection (a) shall be counted if:
               (1)  the ballot was cast from an address outside the
  United States;
               (2)  the carrier envelope was placed for delivery
  before the time the ballot is required to arrive under Subsection
  (a) [(a)(1)]; and
               (3)  the ballot arrives at the address on the carrier
  envelope not later than the fifth day after the date of the
  election.
         (e)  A delivery under Subsection [(a)(2) or] (d) is timely,
  except as otherwise provided by this title, if the carrier envelope
  or, if applicable, the envelope containing the carrier envelope:
               (1)  is properly addressed with postage or handling
  charges prepaid; and
               (2)  bears a cancellation mark of a recognized postal
  service or a receipt mark of a common or contract carrier or a
  courier indicating a time before the deadline.
         SECTION 14.  Section 86.011, Election Code, is amended by
  amending Subsections (a), (b), and (c) and adding Subsection (a-1)
  to read as follows:
         (a)  The early voting clerk shall determine whether the
  return of a voter's official carrier envelope for a ballot voted by
  mail is timely.
         (a-1)  The early voting clerk shall scan the unique barcode
  on the official carrier envelope, make a record of the barcode, and
  determine whether the unique barcode matches the barcode of an
  official carrier envelope recorded under Section 86.001(j). The
  clerk shall reject a carrier envelope with a barcode that:
               (1)  does not match the barcode of an official carrier
  envelope recorded under Section 86.001(j); or
               (2)  matches a barcode of an official carrier envelope
  that has already been received by the early voting clerk.
         (b)  If the return is timely and the carrier envelope is not
  rejected under Subsection (a-1), the clerk shall enclose the
  carrier envelope and the voter's early voting ballot application in
  a jacket envelope. The clerk shall also include in the jacket
  envelope:
               (1)  a copy of the voter's federal postcard application
  if the ballot is voted under Chapter 101; and
               (2)  the signature cover sheet, if the ballot is voted
  under Chapter 105.
         (c)  If the return is not timely or the carrier envelope is
  rejected under Subsection (a-1), the clerk shall enter the time of
  receipt on the carrier envelope and retain it for the period for
  preserving the precinct election records. The clerk shall destroy
  the unopened envelope and its contents after the preservation
  period.
         SECTION 15.  Section 86.013, Election Code, is amended by
  amending Subsection (b) and adding Subsection (h) 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;
               (3)  entering the signature, printed name, residence
  address, and telephone number of the person who witnesses the voter
  sign the carrier envelope under Section 86.0053; and
               (4)  placing the signature and seal of a notary public
  who witnesses the voter sign the carrier envelope under Section
  86.0053.
         (h)  Each official carrier envelope must include a unique
  barcode that may be identified and recorded by the early voting
  clerk under Sections 86.001(j) and 86.011(a-1).
         SECTION 16.  Chapter 86, Election Code, is amended by adding
  Section 86.015 to read as follows:
         Sec. 86.015.  STATE ELECTION DATABASE. (a) The secretary of
  state shall maintain a state election database that is available to
  the public for review.
         (b)  Not later than 24 hours after the early voting clerk
  receives an application to vote by mail, places an official ballot
  in the mail, or receives a marked ballot voted by mail, the clerk
  shall upload the following information to the state election
  database:
               (1)  the name of the person who:
                     (A)  provided an application to vote by mail;
                     (B)  received an official ballot to be voted by
  mail; or
                     (C)  returned an official ballot voted by mail;
  and
               (2)  the time and date that:
                     (A)  the application was received;
                     (B)  the official ballot was placed in the mail;
  or
                     (C)  the marked ballot voted by mail was received.
         (c)  The secretary of state shall adopt rules and prescribe
  procedures as necessary to implement this section.
         SECTION 17.  Section 87.027, Election Code, is amended by
  amending Subsection (i) and adding Subsection (i-1) to read as
  follows:
         (i)  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 and the voter's registration 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. 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.
         (i-1)  If the signature verification committee uses software
  to compare signatures under Subsection (i), the software must have
  a 95 percent rate of accuracy.
         SECTION 18.  Section 87.041, Election Code, is amended by
  amending Subsections (b) and (e) and adding Subsection (e-1) to
  read as follows:
         (b)  A ballot may be accepted only if:
               (1)  the carrier envelope certificate is properly
  executed;
               (2)  neither the voter's signature on the ballot
  application nor the signature on the carrier envelope certificate
  is determined to have been executed 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 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; and
               (8)  the carrier envelope is signed by a witness or
  notary public as required under Section 86.0053.
         (e)  In making the determination under Subsection (b)(2),
  the board shall compare the signature of the voter on the carrier
  envelope certificate with the signature of the voter on the voter's
  registration application submitted under Section 13.002. 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.
         (e-1)  If the board uses software to compare signatures under
  Subsection (b)(2), the software must have a 95 percent rate of
  accuracy.
         SECTION 19.  Section 87.062, Election Code, is amended by
  adding Subsection (a-1) to read as follows:
         (a-1)  Before counting a ballot voted by mail, the early
  voting ballot board shall identify the unique barcode or microchip
  included on the ballot under Section 52.076, make a record
  indicating that the board has counted a ballot with that barcode or
  microchip, and compare the barcode or microchip to records of other
  counted ballots. If the barcode or microchip on the ballot is the
  same as a barcode or microchip recorded for a ballot that has
  already been counted, the board may not count the ballot. Ballots
  not counted under this section shall be placed in an envelope and
  treated in the same manner as rejected ballots under Section
  87.043.
         SECTION 20.  Section 87.103, Election Code, is amended by
  adding Subsection (a-1) to read as follows:
         (a-1)  Before counting a ballot voted by mail, the unique
  barcode or microchip included on each ballot under Section 52.076
  must be identified, recorded, and compared to the barcode or
  microchip records of other counted ballots. If the barcode or
  microchip on the ballot is the same as a barcode or microchip
  recorded for a ballot that has already been counted, the ballot may
  not be counted. Ballots not counted under this section shall be
  placed in an envelope and treated in the same manner as rejected
  ballots under Section 87.043.
         SECTION 21.  The following sections of the Election Code are
  repealed:
               (1)  Section 82.003;
               (2)  Section 82.004; and
               (3)  Section 84.009.
         SECTION 22.  The changes in law made by this Act apply only
  to an application to vote an early voting ballot by mail submitted
  on or after the effective date of this Act. An application to vote
  an early voting ballot by mail submitted before the effective date
  of this Act is governed by the law in effect when the application
  was submitted, and the former law is continued in effect for that
  purpose.
         SECTION 23.  This Act takes effect immediately if it
  receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each
  house, as provided by Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution.
  If this Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate
  effect, this Act takes effect September 1, 2021.
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