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Democratic Legislators Propose Sweeping Changes to Texas Elections

Ranked Choice Voting, National Popular Vote, and Changes to Redistricting Among Proposals

Coming off yet another unsuccessful election cycle for Texas Democrats, some Democratic legislators have filed bills that would radically change Texas elections. While these bills have no chance at passage during the current legislative session, they signal the measures that may be seriously pursued should Democrats hold positions of power in the future.

HB 259 by State Representative Vikki Goodwin and SB 359 by State Senator Sarah Eckhardt would allow cities and school districts to institute ranked-choice voting in their elections. Goodwin and Eckhardt have also filed legislation, HB 1792 and SB 637, requiring ranked choice voting to be used in special elections to fill a vacancy in a public office.

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Organizations that support the implementation of ranked-choice voting in Texas include the Texas Civil Rights Project, which recently hired former Democratic Attorney General nominee Rochelle Garza as its new President. The Texas Civil Rights Project has played an active role in litigation challenging election integrity laws passed by the Texas legislature. Ranked choice voting is also a priority of Arnold Ventures, which is the single largest donor to the Texas Tribune.

Described by conservative legal scholar J. Christian Adams as “a scheme to keep politicians in power,” forms of ranked-choice voting have been used in elections in places such as Alaska, Maine, and New York City.

Redistricting is also a target of Democratic legislators. HB 21 by State Representative James Talarico, HB 693 by State Representative Vikki Goodwin, HB 731 by State Representative Donna Howard, SB 69 by State Senator Judith Zaffirini, and SB 115 by State Senator Jose Menendez would all implement some form of an appointed redistricting commission to handle redistricting instead of the elected legislature.

The creation of an appointed redistricting commission would require the passage of an amendment to the Texas Constitution.

Disregarding the Electoral College in favor of an interstate compact to elect the President of the United States by popular vote has also gained acceptance among Texas Democrats. HB 237 by State Representative Vikki Goodwin and SB 95 by State Senator Nathan Johnson would have Texas join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

According to Ballotpedia, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact has been approved by 15 states and Washington, DC. Critics of the Compact, such as Andy Craig of the Cato Institute, have described it as “fatally flawed” and “an invitation to a constitutional crisis.”

Members of the Texas House have until March 10th to file bills. It is expected that additional proposals from Democrats regarding elections will be filed before the deadline.

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