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Bill aims to stop ballot harvesting
by Jason Collins
May 05, 2013 | 1405 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A bill designed to stop what is called vote harvesting passed the Texas House and is in the hands of the Senate now.

Texas law currently allows a person to mail another person’s ballot as long as it is already sealed in an envelope and the voter’s signature and address is sealed on the outside.

However, current law does not set a limit on the number of times a person can mail another person’s ballot, leading to what the bill’s author, Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale, referred to as “ballot harvesting,” a practice where paid workers deliver large numbers of mail-in ballots.

“House Bill 148 is an attempt to weed out the ‘bad actors’ that are preying on vulnerable Texans and corrupting our democratic process,” she said. “Any amount of fraudulent or illegal activity is unacceptable in a system where one vote can determine the outcome of an election.”

The bill will increase the penalty to a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000.

If a person is convicted two or more times, then the offense is punishable by a state jail felony. The bill garnered widespread support from numerous election administrators across Texas.

The bill passed the House on April 29 and was sent to the Senate.

Voting in favor of the measure was Rep. J.M. Lozano. Lozano represents District 43, which includes Bee County. He was unavailable for comment earlier this week as he was on the House floor, said Fernando Treviño Jr., legislative aide.

The bill is now in the hands of the Senate and under discussion by the State Affairs Committee.

In order to become law, the bill must still receive an affirmative Senate vote.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini said that while she supported stopping voter fraud, this wasn’t the bill that would accomplish this.

“Voter fraud, vote tampering and unscrupulous vote harvesting should not be tolerated and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” she said.

“House Bill 148, however, does not solve those problems, but could create new problems. I am concerned, for example, about its possible negative consequences for elderly Texans, persons with disabilities and others who must trust someone to carry their ballots to the mailbox for them. These trusted persons can include nurses who care for multiple patients, Meals on Wheels volunteers, neighborhood leaders and persons who live in retirement homes.

“I also worry that this bill could interfere with the Voting Rights Act requirement that voters be allowed to receive assistance from a person of their choice.”

Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.
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