AUSTIN – Texas State Representative Jessica González filed her first bills yesterday. The six pieces of legislation, HB 1459, HB 1460, HB 1461, HB 1462, HB 1463, and HB 1464, are aligned with bipartisan efforts to streamline vote-by-mail procedures, eliminate unnecessary paperwork, and reduce costs to counties.
“This session, I will introduce legislation to improve the daily lives of hardworking Texans like those in my district. For too long, too many people have lacked a voice in the halls of power in this state. Through the bills I file and the legislation I support, I will make sure that the people of HD 104 are finally heard,” González said. “I have worked to protect voting rights throughout my career, first at the Department of Justice and then during the 2012 presidential campaign. I know that access to the ballot box is essential to giving overlooked communities a voice. Su voto es su voz, and my first bills will make it easier for people to make themselves heard in Austin and Washington, D.C.”
HB 1459 would ensure voters from both parties have representation throughout the voting process by requiring an alternate judge be appointed to both early voting ballot boards and signature verification committees. Representative González said, “This is a common sense improvement that will ensure consistency in our elections. Neither party should have a monopoly on election oversight, and a vote in Dallas County will be counted the same way as in Wise County.”
HB 1460 would create a process for primary election poll workers to offer mail ballot applications to eligible voters. Poll workers would be allowed to receive the applications and return them to the early voting clerk. Representative González added, “This is a simple fix so that we can make voting easier for those eligible to vote by mail, including seniors. The more voters we encourage to cast a mail ballot, the shorter lines will be, creating a smoother process for our dedicated election workers. This adjustment will cut down on lines at polling locations and allow those voting by mail to feel secure that their ballot will be counted.”
HB 1461 would clarify processes and expand extended voting hours and weekend voting to more counties. Both major parties regularly submit the required paperwork to extend voting hours, but election administrators need more lead time and smarter rules to make this process more efficient and more predictable. This legislation would provide certainty earlier in counties with populations of 50,000 or more and establish a more realistic deadline for petitions in smaller counties--60 days before the start of early voting--so budgets, scheduling, and staffing may be worked out well ahead of time.
HB 1462 would bring the day by which a mail ballot must be received in line with other deadlines. Valid mail ballots are often not counted because they are not delivered in time, due to delays with the U.S. Postal Service. Extending the deadline to the fifth day after an election would bring the mail ballot deadline in line with the date by which military and overseas ballots must arrive. "It's is a fairness issue," said Representative González. "This unintentional voter suppression disproportionately affects seniors, rural voters and the disabled. If your ballot is correctly postmarked, it should count. Period.”
HB 1463 would require joint primaries. Representative González added, “Texas primaries are unnecessarily confusing. In some counties parties hold their primaries at joint locations; in others, the locations change between the primary and the general. Holding joint primaries would reduce confusion and has the added benefit of a substantial cost savings, which should be used to pay election workers a higher wage.”
HB 1464 would allow voter registration and a vote-by-mail application to be included on the same form. Representative González said, “The current process for requesting an application to vote by mail can be confusing, and when it is coupled with a new voter registration, it’s downright onerous. Allowing a new voter, who would be eligible to vote by mail, to submit both a new voter registration and their application for a mail ballot on the same form will reduce confusion and cut down on time consuming paperwork.”