AP NEWS

It should be easy to vote, hard to cheat

May 16, 2019

Texas policymakers ought to be focused on modernizing and securing elections so that everyone who’s eligible to vote can vote and only eligible votes count. Unfortunately, potential legislation being debated in Austin — Senate Bill 9 by Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola — does not advance those priorities.

As the former Republican secretary of state of Kentucky, I ran elections in that state for more than seven years and now chair the advisory committee of the Secure Elections Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to modernizing elections and making them secure from fraud and illegal voting.

We have several concerns with Senate Bill 9.

First, this bill weakens local control of elections by taking away power from local election officials and giving it to the state. Local election officials are the front line of implementing secure elections, and the bill — especially the provisions on voting machines — usurps local authority and replaces it with unnecessary state mandates.

Second, SB 9 creates new bureaucratic red tape by creating new databases and government programs. Duplication of government lists mean more bureaucracy, and there are far better ways to improve the accuracy of our voter rolls.

Finally, and most concerning, this legislation creates multiple new felonies for mistakes on paperwork: It would create state felonies for honest errors while registering to vote. This would create additional costs for local communities because someone made a simple mistake on paperwork, such as putting down a mailing address instead of a residential address.

Criminalizing simple mistakes could have a chilling effect on voter turnout; SB 9 is going in the opposite direction of what’s needed for both secure and modern elections.

Bottom line: We think it should be easy to vote, but hard to cheat. Unfortunately, Senate Bill 9 is problematic for the Lone Star State, and lawmakers should focus on making participation in our democracy easier, not creating more obstacles and making eligible voters worry they could be thrown in jail for making an honest mistake.

Trey Grayson is the former Republican secretary of state in Kentucky. He is an attorney at Frost Brown Todd, and serves as chairman of the advisory board of the Secure Elections Project, the 501(c)(4) advocacy group tied to the Center for Secure and Modern Elections.