Texas House tentatively passes bill increasing penalties for mail-in ballot fraud

It's day 23 of the Texas Legislature's Special Session, and lawmakers still haven't sent any bills to the governor's desk. But Wednesday, they moved one step closer to changing that.

AUSTIN - The Texas House of Representatives tentatively passed Senate Bill 5 (SB5) Wednesday to increase penalties for committing mail-in ballot fraud.

The bill takes the offense from a misdemeanor, in many cases, to a state jail felony crime.

"The whole point is to hopefully deter people from participating in those activities ever again," said Representative Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth) who sponsored the bill in the House.

Before lawmakers voted on the actual bill, they spent hours debating an amendment by Goldman. He wanted to reverse a bill that just passed in the regular session, with bipartisan support and was signed into law by the governor, to expand voting into nursing homes.

Representative Tom Oiverson (R-Cypress) gave a passionate plea to try and save the bill.

"What was unique about this bill that we are now going to blow up and repeal is instead of punishing somebody after they commit a crime, we were actually taking away the opportunity to commit a crime," said Oliverson.

Still, lawmakers voted to accept Goldman's amendment.

"Election administrators representing 120 members of the House, contacted us and said that is an unfunded mandate, that's going to cost our counties thousands of dollars and we would like it repealed," said Goldman. "Our legislation does repeal that language, in hopes that during the interim they can work with members of the Elections Committee and craft a better bill."

SB5 tentatively passed the House with a vote of 90 to 37. Lawmakers are set to take the final vote on the bill Thursday.

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