Home https://server7.kproxy.com/servlet/redirect.srv/sruj/smyrwpoii/p2/ US https://server7.kproxy.com/servlet/redirect.srv/sruj/smyrwpoii/p2/ Republicans in Texas say it is bad policy to lower the threshold for overthrow. So why did they try?

Republicans in Texas say it is bad policy to lower the threshold for overthrow. So why did they try?



In a sweeping revision of the Texas election law, which Republicans rushed toward approval in the debilitating hours of the Legislature, a provision stood out to critics as particularly alarming.

The hastily added clause would have made it easy for a judge to cancel an election even if there were only thin signs of fraud. With former President Donald Trump’s historic efforts to reverse his November loss still in their minds, Democrats designated the measure as irresponsible.

“Just think about it – your election, your election could be overthrown without the other side being required to prove actual voter fraud,” State Attorney Julie Johnson, D-Carrolton, said in a passionate speech on the floor of the Texas House. “The consequences of this are unimaginable. To make matters worse, the provision was not in either the Senate or the House version of the bill. ”

The bill never went through and died at midnight on May 31

, after Democrats blocked a vote on it by going out. Yet political debates have given way to an even more fundamental question: Who added the “Reverse Elections” section to it?

One of the members of the conference committee that drafted the final version of the bill, Secretary of State Travis Clardy, R-Nagodoches, says he does not know. Other top Republicans who worked on the final draft of the legislation say they do not know either.

What’s more, Clardy now condemns the overthrow measures and says Republicans do not plan to revive them in a future bill.

“There was no appetite or intention or will to create a low bar where a single judge could overthrow the result of an election,” Clardy said in an interview with Hearst Newspapers. “It would be a terrible policy, and it would never be healthy for democracy.”

Democratic members say there is in no way these provisions by mistake. They say they raised concerns about them with the Republicans when there was time left for the bill to be revised.

The sections would have lowered the standard of proof to overturn a choice from “clear and convincing” evidence to a “preponderance of evidence.” And they gave the judges the opportunity to cancel the election, even if that was the case it could not be shown that false votes made a difference in the result.

If the bill had been passed, Texas would have been one of the few states that had lowered the bar so much and opened the door to a stream of potential election challenges, election law experts said.

“If we deliberately design a system that says all you have to do is come up with a simple preponderance – that is, hardly more evidence than the other side – and we will throw the choice out when we have a on the basis of election procedures in place, which we rightly expect to give reliable results in the normal course of events, we are really undermining it, ”said Steven Huefner, professor of law at Ohio State University.

‘They had time to go through it’

The final version of Senate Bill 7 varied greatly from its previous iterations. Such changes are not uncommon at the Texas Capitol, where the legislature meets once every two years for 140 days of political decision-making and political point-scoring. Sometimes the results are sloppy.

When the Texas Legislative Council, the non-party agency, whose lawyers and researchers advise Legislators drafting legislation returned the bill, Clardy said he was surprised by some of the new provisions, which he said were not among revisions submitted by the bill’s authors.

In addition to the last-minute provision on the overthrow of elections, another late addition said early voting on Sunday could not start until 6 p.m. Clardy later told NPR that it was a typo.

“I do not want to put the blame on the lawyers in the Legislative Council who have worked on this,” Clardy said. “We never intended and never asked for or even wrote a section called overthrowing elections. It was not wanted at all. ”

He added: “I do not know what input other conferences may have had with the Play Council; I’m just saying that as a lawyer and understanding the import and the difference in standards I would never agree with being overweight and would have and will insist on being clear and convincing. ”

A spokeswoman for the Legislative Council declined to comment, saying the drafting of the bill is “privileged and confidential.”

State Representative Nicole Collier, one of three Democrats on the conference committee and chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, did not buy the Republicans’ claims that the language was added by mistake.

“They had time to go through it,” Collier said. “The fact that the conference report was signed on Saturday” – the day before it went to the floor of the house – “means that they had read it and they approved it.”

Zero public comment

During the final debate on the bill, chairman of the House Election Committee Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, said some changes he supported were mysteriously missing in the final version. Cain said this week that he knew as much as Clardy about where the “Reverse Choice” section came from, and had nothing further to add.

Senator Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, senate chairman of the conference committee, declined to comment on the matter. But in a statement sent to Twitter on Thursday about SB 7, Hughes said that Parliament ordered the draft to the conference committee, “so that any errors” did not “come over” from the Senate. “

Elizabeth Álvarez-Bingham, the attorney general who consulted with House Republicans on the bill, said she would never have recommended lowering the burden of proof.

“Election contests exist as a role for the judiciary,” Álvarez-Bingham said. “They should only override the choice if you can meet the highest possible burden, and that’s how it should be.”

Language in the bill that lowered the standard of proof was in an earlier version, which the Senate approved in April, although there was little discussion about it at the time. State Representative Cole Hefner, R-Mount Pleasant, had proposed the amendment in a separate bill that was withdrawn before it could be heard in committee. He did not respond to a request for comment.

State Senator Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, who served with Clardy on the conference committee that signed the final version of the legislation, said he also does not want to lower the standard of proof and prefers that judges uphold their discretion.

As for the part that allows judges to cancel the election, no other bill submitted to that session included the language, according to a search of Texas’ legislative database.

Álvarez-Bingham noted that there are almost identical languages ​​in the Texas Election Code. It is now found in a section describing a judge’s ability to force voters to reveal their vote during an election contest.

Under current law, it is an alternative when the number of illegal votes cannot be calculated. Without this distinction, critics argued, and especially in combination with the lower standard, the provision could have been interpreted so that judges could reverse a choice without trying to determine whether false votes were numerous enough to change the outcome.

The public never had a chance to vet the new provisions put together, said Sen. Beverly Powell, D-Burleson, another of the Democrats on the conference committee.

“Instead, like much of SB7, the provision was drafted behind closed doors and rushed through in the 11th hour without input from minority constituencies and others,” Powell said in a statement. “I am hopeful that minority voters, local election officials and the general public will have greater influence and input during a special session on monumental voting legislation.”

The special session, Clardy said, will give lawmakers another chance to clean up the bill and include only the language they strongly believe in.

“The proof will be in the pudding on this,” he said. “When we replenish the bills for electoral integrity, when we return to a special, when the governor sets it up and sets us in motion, these conditions will be rectified.”

taylor.goldenstein@chron.com




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