East Texas state Sen. Bryan Hughes will have to rely on the kindness of colleagues to salvage parts of his controversial elections bill during the legislative session, after the committee that controls House floor debate declined to put his Senate Bill 9 on the House agenda.
The Dallas Morning News reported Monday that the Mineola Republican’s bill had stalled Sunday evening in the House Calendars Committee. That killed its chances to meet a midnight deadline tonight for Senate bills to win a House nod on second reading.
The lack of action thrilled Democratic leaders, who have described the measure as a way to suppress minority votes and potentially send people to jail for honest mistakes on ballots.
The bill increased existing penalties for ballot abuse from a misdemeanor to a state jail felony. It also required polls to be placed in proportion to a commissioner precinct’s number of registered voters.
Critics argue that last component would shift polls away from minority neighborhoods, though Gregg County Elections Administrator Kathryn Nealy said last week the polls under her watch are evenly distributed.
Hughes was not available for comment Monday. He told the Morning News on Sunday night he will be looking for House and Senate members willing to tack elements of SB 9 onto other bills that are progressing.
“I’ll be getting with members of the House who care about election reform,” Hughes told the newspaper. “And we’re going to keep working on the issue.”
Hughes’ chief of staff told the News-Journal on Monday morning he would notify it if any significant progress is made on that front.