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Texas Senate Passes Bill to Expedite Resolution of Election Challenges Amidst Controversy

The Texas Senate approved a bill on December 1 aimed at expediting the resolution of challenges to the results of constitutional amendment elections. Senator Brian Hughes, R-Mineola, introduced Senate Bill 6 in response to multiple lawsuits disputing the outcomes of the November 7 constitutional amendment election, where Texas voters approved 13 amendments. The proposed legislation seeks to address concerns that unresolved election contests could hinder the certification of results by the governor, preventing the implementation of approved amendments.

The lawsuits allege that voting machines in several Texas counties were not properly certified, a requirement by both the Texas Secretary of State and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Senate Bill 6, approved by a 23-1 vote, is now on its way to the Texas House, with uncertainty about whether it will be considered before the conclusion of the ongoing special legislative session on December 6.

Breaking down the key provisions of Senate Bill 6, the proposed legislation significantly tightens deadlines for courts to conduct trials and rule on challenges related to constitutional amendment elections. It stipulates that all trials for such challenges must occur within 50 days after the election, with the court having an additional 5 days to issue a ruling. If rulings are appealed to a court of appeals or the Texas Supreme Court, each court is given 30 days to issue a judgment or opinion. These timelines mirror existing ones for challenges to candidate elections and would apply not only to the November 7 election but also to future constitutional amendment elections.

Senator Hughes clarified that the bill does not intend to curtail Texans’ right to challenge elections. Instead, it aims to prompt expedited resolution by courts to ensure timely appeals. Governor Greg Abbott has not included this issue in the special session agenda, but there is a possibility of its consideration if both chambers pass Senate Bill 6. The governor can choose to sign or veto any bills passed by lawmakers.

Responding to the urgency of the situation, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick emphasized the need for a swift resolution before the session’s midweek conclusion. However, Senator Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, criticized the lawsuits as recycled allegations and claimed they were based on unfounded claims of election fraud, echoing a broader push for voting restrictions among Texas Republicans.

Katya Ehresman from Common Cause Texas warned against hasty legislative changes, arguing that the lawsuits could be dismissed under existing law. She expressed concern about potential consequences for everyday Texans and urged the legislature not to alter the system prematurely.

As the special legislative session unfolds, it remains uncertain whether the Texas House will vote on Senate Bill 6 before the session’s scheduled conclusion on December 6, as lawmakers left the Capitol on December 1 without taking action on bills. They are set to reconvene next week.