Gov. Greg Abbott calls for stiffer penalty for illegal voting — weeks after he signed a bill lowering it

Texas Politics

Voters line up and wait to cast a ballot for the general election at the American Airlines Center during early voting Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

(Texas Tribune) — Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday called for Texas lawmakers to increase the penalty for illegal voting — less than a month after he signed a bill that would lower the maximum punishment.

The crime of illegal voting was scheduled to go from a second degree felony to a Class A misdemeanor in December, after the passage of Senate Bill 1, a sweeping bill that restricted the state’s voting process and narrowed local control of elections.

Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to a year in jail, but can be resolved with a fine. A second degree felony in Texas is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

But in a letter to the Texas Senate on Thursday, Abbott added legislation that would reverse that change to the list of items lawmakers can consider during the current special session of the Legislature.

“The State of Texas has made tremendous progress in upholding the integrity of our elections,” Abbott said in a press release. “By increasing penalties for illegal voting, we will send an even clearer message that voter fraud will not be tolerated in Texas.”

The message comes days after the Secretary of State’s office announced an audit of the general election of 2020 in four Texas counties — Harris, Collin, Dallas and Tarrant — despite there being no widespread evidence of voter fraud.

Local officials said they were in the dark about the process, which Abbott later claimed had already begun as the audit’s guidelines covered some of the standard post-election procedures local officials are already required to undertake.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at www.texastribune.org. The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans – and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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