‘Election marshals’ and runoff rules: States eye a new round of voting changes a

Patrick Swanson / December 16,2022
‘Election marshals’ and runoff rules: States eye a new round of voting changes a
  • Texas-size changes
  • ‘Election marshals’ and runoff rules: States eye a new round of voting changes a


    Texas will consider adding a new election police force. Ohio has moved forward on photo ID requirements for voting. And Georgia could overhaul its controversial general-election runoff system.

    Two years after the 2020 election and the pandemic put a spotlight on how elections are run, legislators around the country are signaling they aren’t finished yet with big changes to election administration and could implement new rules ahead of the 2024 presidential contest.

    “Since the 2020 election, we’ve just seen this onslaught of new election laws coming through the states,” said Liz Avore, a senior policy adviser with the Voting Rights Lab, a group working to expand ballot access that is tracking the election bills. “It’s time to brace for another prolific year for election-related legislation.”

    The renewed activity comes as the nation’s highest court weighs whether the US Constitution grants state legislators powers to set the ground rules for federal elections without oversight by state courts. An expansive ruling by the US Supreme Court would give state legislatures largely unchecked authority over election procedures, including the drawing of congressional maps.

    Texas-size changes

    Some of the efforts have already begun.

    During a recent lame-duck session, the Republican-controlled legislature in Ohio approved a photo ID requirement to vote and shortened the window to return absentee ballots.

    But much of the action could come in Texas, where lawmakers have pre-filed 66 election bills ahead of next year’s legislative session — the highest number so far in any state, according to the Voting Rights Lab’s tally.

    The Texas legislature meets only in odd-numbered years, so next year’s session would mark the first opportunity for the GOP-led body to weigh election changes since the passage of sweeping voting changes in 2021 after Democratic lawmakers staged dramatic defections in a failed bid to stop the legislation from becoming law.

    Some parts of the new law contributed to voters seeing their mail ballots rejected at higher-than-normal rates during this year’s primaries.

    Among the proposals Texas lawmakers will weigh next year: establishing a system of “election marshals” to enforce the state’s voting laws — akin to election police forces established in Florida and elsewhere after the 2020 election, following rampant — and largely unsubstantiated — claims of voter fraud.

    One Texas bill, authored by Republican state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, would create a network of election marshals around the state empowered to investigate election violations and impound election records and equipment. A “state election marshal,” reporting to the Texas secretary of state, would appoint the individual marshals.

    In an interview with CNN, Bettencourt said he drafted the bill to address problems that have arisen in Harris County — a Democratic stronghold that’s home to Houston.

    Election Day problems in the county included paper ballot shortages, machine malfunctions and delays in opening polling places. “It’s preposterous for the nation’s…