Watch Senate Bill 9 hearing on voting rights and access in Texas House committee

Texas Tribune Blue Government News

A voter walks into the Howson Branch Library in Austin on the last day of early voting in Travis County.
A voter walks into the Howson Branch Library in Austin on the last day of early voting in Travis County.
Rachel Zein for The Texas Tribune

A Texas House panel is taking up legislation Wednesday that would make it a felony for Texans who vote when they’re ineligible — even if they did so unknowingly.

Senate Bill 9, a controversial and wide-ranging election measure, would increase the penalty for such an offense from a Class B misdemeanor to a state jail felony, with punishment that could include up to a two-year jail term and a fine of up to $10,000. The state Senate passed the measure April 15.

The legislation would also allow an election officer or poll watcher to be present at a voting station when a voter is getting help from someone who isn’t a relative. The officer or poll watcher would be allowed to examine the voter’s ballot before it is submitted “to determine whether it is prepared in accordance with the voter’s wishes.”

Proponents say the legislation would strengthen the integrity of Texas’ elections. But critics say the legislation would only make voting more difficult and scary for voters.

The House Elections Committee began hearing testimony on the legislation Wednesday morning before breaking for the meeting of the full House. The committee will return after the House adjourns. Watch the stream then below.