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Texas Senate advances bill to create election marshal unit

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DALLAS (NewsNation) — Texas lawmakers in the state Senate advanced a bill that would create an election marshal team to enforce election law and investigate any potential problems.

If signed into law, Senate Bill 220 would establish a chief and at least 30 election marshals across the state who would immediately respond to any polling sites or central count areas to investigate and file charges in the event of an alleged election violation.

The bill’s author, Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), said these marshals would be Texas Department of Public Safety officers and would be trained by the secretary of state.

Bill supporters said it would enhance election integrity, while opponents claimed it is government overreach.

On the Senate floor last week, some lawmakers expressed their concerns about voter intimidation, discrimination and government overreach, pointing to data showing five voter fraud convictions from January 2020 to September 2022.

However, Bettencourt said the bill was not an attempt at voter suppression. Instead, he wants to prevent what happened in the Houston area during the midterms when some polling sites ran out of ballot paper.

But this bill is similar to Florida’s law establishing a police force to investigate election crimes last year. While some of the charges have since been dropped, 20 people were arrested for alleged election violations.

“The data from Florida speaks for itself. What’s going to make Texas data different? What’s going to make Texas data different than Florida?” Sen. Borris Miles (D-Houston) said.

“Sen. Miles, this is not Florida. Sen. Miles, this is not the Florida law. Sen. Miles, this bill was passed two years ago before the Florida law was even contemplated. Sen. Miles, this bill focuses on election administration,” Bettencourt said.

In 2021, this same bill passed out of the state Senate but didn’t make it any further.

Now, the House will decide whether it will advance further this time around. However, it is currently not listed as a priority bill in both chambers.

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