As a legislator, I believe that we must work to secure the right of every citizen to participate in guiding the direction of our government.
When people do not have confidence in our electoral institutions—when political legitimacy is questioned—liberty is threatened. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the Texas Legislature this session to ensure that elections, the bedrock of our Republic, are free, fair, and secure.
With the goal of restoring and safeguarding the people’s faith in their electoral system, the Legislature must be mindful of the following provision of the Texas Bill of Rights. Article I, Section 2 of the Texas Constitution declares that: “All political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their benefit. The faith of the people of Texas stands pledged to the preservation of a republican form of government, and, subject to this limitation only, they have at all times the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think expedient.” Tex. Const. art. I, § 2.
Unfortunately, the events all Texans, as well as all Americans, witnessed this fall did little to address worries that our elections are not secure, and the results lack authority. Make no mistake, these issues far predated 2020, or even the changes made with COVID-19 as a justification. People are angry and afraid that their voice and their vote don’t count.
That is why election integrity is the canary in the coal mine that presages breakdown, corruption and lawlessness. When legal votes are diluted by illegal votes, the very sovereignty of the people is under attack. The narrative at first was voter fraud was a myth, then systemic voter fraud was a myth, finally voter fraud was not enough to affect the outcome of our elections. But now, it seems, the people behind this “shadow campaign” cannot help doing a victory lap and have all but admitted to most of the violations we were told did not exist.
The idea that our elections are free from vote dilution is a myth that is demonstrably false. The truth is every single illegitimate vote suppresses the voice of a legitimate voter and a citizen of our nation. All votes matter because all voices matter. Our duty to voters is to get this right. This can be done by ensuring: i) that all eligible voters are given ample opportunity to vote and that their vote is never watered down by illegitimate votes; ii) that our voter rolls are accurate and current; iii) that polling locations are geographically dispersed in a nondiscriminatory manner; and iv) that the procedures and processes of elections are general and uniform throughout the state so that all voters regardless of their county of residence feel they had a fair opportunity to have their voice heard.
Forthcoming research from Texas Public Policy Foundation found that poorly maintained voter lists may include more than 100,000 ineligible voters (noncitizens, deceased, and people who have moved out of state). The casting of just one unlawful ballot is too many. While perfection may be impossible, we should and will strive for it.
The U.S. Constitution rightly delegates powers to the states through the Tenth Amendment. Yet Congress is now attempting a breathtaking level of overreach in areas like voter roll maintenance, ID requirements, and mail-in-ballot eligibility. This will only serve to further weaken elections and do little to restore the tenuous trust voters have in 2021.
And, with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent declaration of election integrity as an emergency item, there’s never been a better time to restore trust and protect voters from the deleterious effects of allowing bad data, lack of voter ID and unreasonable expansion of receipt deadlines for mail-in ballots to exacerbate problems we saw both in Texas as well as states like Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Secure and Free Election Agenda also has several other policy proposals that are similar to fixes offered up by me and my colleagues.
As we discuss and consider how to repair a system that was broken well before COVID-19 began to spread, I hope we can use such policies to achieve more fair and free elections for all Texas voters. My hope is that the Lone Star State will be an example of election integrity that other states will follow.