Honorable Bryan Hughes, Chair, Senate Committee on State Affairs
Jerry McGinty, Director, Legislative Budget Board
SB7 by Hughes (Relating to elections, including election integrity and security; creating a criminal offense; providing civil penalties.), As Introduced
Estimated Two-year Net Impact to General Revenue Related Funds for SB7, As Introduced : a negative impact of ($34,299,740) through the biennium ending August 31, 2023. The fiscal impact to the state related to the creation of civil penalties cannot be estimated at this time.
The bill would make no appropriation but could provide the legal basis for an appropriation of funds to implement the provisions of the bill.
General Revenue-Related Funds, Five- Year Impact:
Probable Net Positive/(Negative) Impact to General Revenue Related Funds
All Funds, Five-Year Impact:
Probable (Cost) from General Revenue Fund 1
This bill would amend the Election Code to require a voter registrar to provide notice of unlawful voting or registration to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the Secretary of State (SOS), in addition to the county or district attorney. The bill would require the SOS to monitor compliance and impose civil penalties for violations.
The bill would modify certain existing regulations related to mail ballots and would require the SOS to develop and implement a system allowing for tracking of the mail ballot system.
The bill would impose certain limits on polling place procedures and prohibit the use of direct recording electronic machines unless the system contains an auditable voting system. The bill would allow certain entities to seek reimbursement of the costs of retrofitting or replacing non-auditable voting systems.
The bill would prohibit a commissioners court from accepting certain donations of over $1,000 for use in administering elections without the written consent of the SOS.
The bill would provide for civil penalties and additional criminal offenses for election violations.
According to the SOS, the provisions of the bill that would require the agency to develop a mail ballot tracking system would require moderate programming modifications to the statewide voter registration system. In addition, according to the SOS, the provisions of the bill that would provide a reimbursement of 100 percent to certain counties that purchased non-auditable voting system equipment would have a significant fiscal impact to the state.
According to the Veterans Commission, no significant fiscal impact to the agency is anticipated.
According to the OAG, the bill could result in an increase in cases; however, the agency assumes that any legal work resulting from the passage of this bill could be reasonably absorbed with current resources.
According to the Office of Court Administration, any increased case volume driven by the bill would likely be absorbed by existing resources and no significant fiscal impact to the state court system is anticipated.
According to the Comptroller of Public Accounts, the fiscal impact on the state cannot be estimated.
The offense created by this bill would be a Class A misdemeanor.
The SOS assumes that 47 counties that have purchased direct-recording electronic voting systems would be subject to reimbursement under the provisions of the bill. In counties using these systems, 9,492 voting machines would have to be retrofitted at a total cost of $21,635,000. Another 628 machines would have to be replaced at a total cost of $2,584,100. The total cost for replacement or retrofitting of these machines would be $24,219,100.
In addition to upgrading or replacing voting machines, counties would also be able to seek reimbursement for tabulation machines compliant with the upgraded systems. At least one scanning device would be required for each polling place. The SOS assumes that there would be one polling place for each of 1,425 precincts. In addition, scanners would also be required for an estimated 220 early voting locations. At a list cost of approximately $6,100 per scanner, the SOS estimates these reimbursements would result in an additional potential reimbursement to counties of $10,028,400.
According to the SOS, it would require 320 hours to implement the mail ballot requirements of the bill. The agency assumes a contractor cost of $132 per hour for this service and a total cost of $42,240. The agency also assumes additional IT costs related to increased volume of services would be approximately $10,000.
Local Government Impact
According to the SOS, in addition to reimbursable equipment costs, counties would also have to secure additional software updates, perform acceptance testing of new equipment, and receive training from the vendor on the new equipment. The agency estimates the average cost to the counties for the additional training would be approximately $4,000 for a week of on-site training.
According to Hidalgo County, the cost for upgrading its existing voting system to meet the requirements of the bill would be $4.0 million for 1,419 conversions and 250 scanning machines. Of this amount, $48,515 would either not be eligible for reimbursement or would represent an ongoing operational expense.
According to Brazos County, the cost for upgrading its existing voting system to meet the requirements of the bill would be $1.7 million for 480 conversions and 60 scanning machines. Of this amount, $15,728 would either not be eligible for reimbursement or would represent an ongoing operational expense.
According to Randall County, it would cost the county $750,000 to retrofit the current system to a system that could provide a paper audit trail. The county also adds that the current system was purchased in 2017.
According to Brazoria County, the cost to retrofit the current system would be $2.6 million.
According to El Paso County, the county anticipates the fiscal impact of the bill would be approximately $6.2 million.
According to Chambers County, the county anticipates the fiscal impact of the bill would be approximately $1.1 million.
A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of not more than $4,000, confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year, or both. Costs associated with enforcement, prosecution and confinement could likely be absorbed within existing resources. Revenue gain from fines imposed and collected is not anticipated to have a significant fiscal implication.
Source Agencies: b > td >
212 Office of Court Admin, 302 Office of the Attorney General, 304 Comptroller of Public Accounts, 307 Secretary of State, 403 Veterans Commission