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How Big Of A Threat Is Voter Fraud In Texas?

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Texas lawmakers are working on an omnibus elections bill that could crack down on cases of election fraud. Supporters say the proposed legislation will curb illegal voting while others worry that if passed, the new rules could result in voter intimidation and suppression.

The senator who authored Senate Bill 9 says the legislation intends to shore up protections against election-related crimes, which are widespread enough to warrant sweeping action as one of Gov. Abbott's priority items an assertion echoing President Trump's rhetoric about rampant voter fraud in the U.S.

What is "voter fraud" and how pervasive is the problem? How big of an issue is "illegal voting" and who are the perpetrators? How are election laws currently being enforced and what are the penalties for these kinds of crimes?

Activist groups say parts of Texas Senate Bill 9 could make registering to vote and the electoral process itself more scary with tougher penalties for anyone who makes a mistake in the process.

How can lawmakers better balance election law enforcement with protecting rights and accessibility for voters? Could ramped up enforcement and tougher penalties have negative side effects like voter intimidation?

Is it possible to unintentionally commit an election-related crime? What are some of the systemic problems that allow people to vote illegally?

Guests: 

  • Texas Senator Bryan Hughes, R - Mineola
  • Walt Wilson, associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Texas at San Antonio
  • Cinde Weatherby, voting rights and election law issue chair for the League of Women Voters Texas
  • Max Feldman, counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice focusing on voting rights and elections

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 210-614-8980, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet at @TPRSource. 

This interview aired on Tuesday, April 29, 2019.

Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.