Not too long after signing a bill that would downgrade the act of illegal voting from a second-degree felony to a misdemeanor, Gov. Greg Abbott said “Sike!” and is now pushing to reverse that decision.
The Texas Tribune reports that the lowered penalty is part of Senate Bill 1, wide-ranging legislation signed in September that imposes various restrictions that further disenfranchises marginalized voters. These restrictions include bans on drive-thru and overnight early voting, increased protections for partisan poll watchers and also implementing stricter vote-by-mail rules.
So, how did the lowered illegal voting penalties, which sounds like it goes against the entire point of this bill, make it into the fold in the first place?
Here’s an explanation from lieutenant governor and super spreader of racist COVID-19 lies Dan Patrick, per The Texas Tribune:
He said on Twitter that the Senate will pass a bill with that aim next week. Patrick also said in his tweet that the House added the amendment lowering the penalties “last minute” and that the change “went under the radar until” Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton and Patrick “found it & agreed that it must be corrected.”
The amendment originally came from Rep. Steve Allison, a San Antonio Republican. It was approved in the House on an 80-35 vote. The bill was then sent to a conference committee and the final version was approved in the Senate with the support of all the Republicans in the chamber.
Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan tweeted in response to Abbott’s call for the amendment to be reversed, saying in part that “now is not the time to re-litigate” the legislation.
According to San Antonio Current, the penalty for casting an illegal ballot in Texas is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. By lowering it to a misdemeanor crime, it will only be punishable by up to one year in prison.
Both Mason and Rogers are Black and were both arrested for casting ballots with felonies on their record–which is illegal in Texas for some inane reason. Mason was sentenced to five years in prison in her case. Both have maintained that they simply didn’t know state law prohibited them from voting.
If Abbott’s attempt to reverse the penalty downgrade doesn’t pan out, the amendment will go into effect in December.