The House Elections Committee met on January 21, 2020 to take testimony on the following interim charge: “Conduct active oversight of rulemaking and other governmental actions taken to ensure intended legislative outcome of the following legislation: HB 933, HB  1421, HB 2504 and HB 4130.”

This report is intended to give you an overview and highlight of the discussions on the various topics the committee took up. It is not a verbatim transcript of the hearing, but is based upon what was audible or understandable to the observer and the desire to get details out as quickly as possible with few errors or omissions.

Invited Testimony

HB 933

Keith Ingram, Office of the Secretary of State

  • HB 933 requires the SOS webpage to host polling information for counties.
  • TEAM is the election management system. Now, counties can list the polling location ID and specific dates & hours for early voting and during election day.
  • Local elections are included if the county provides that information.
  • Implementation was difficult due to the lack of personnel to help manage the amount of data.
  • Candidate listings have been posted for 245 counties.
  • If we added local entities, it would be very difficult to handle with our current team.
    • Additionally, if we expanded the userbase, it would make the cite less secure.
      • I don’t know what the solution to this would be.
  • Rep. Bucy- have any counties shut down their own websites?
    • No.
    • Rep. Bucy- does HB 933 allow them to?
      • No, I do not think so.
  • Rep. Bucy- when you talk about constraints, does that relate to why not all 254 counties have information posted?
    • If the county is doing the election, they will upload that information
    • All local entities that hold their own elections, we don’t have that kind of information on the site.
  • Rep. Bucy- are you still having personnel issues?
    • This is something that is going to continue to grow as more information must be posted by us, we will need more staff.
  • Rep. Middleton- was this implemented for the Houston election and did they follow correct procedure?
    • Yes.
  • Rep. Cain- what kind of candidate information are you using?
    • We have a list of all the candidates for state and county offices on the website.
    • Rep. Cain- does it link to anything?
      • No. You can sort elections by party as well.
    • Rep. Cain- was the candidate list a part of HB 933?
      • No. It was a part of HB 2640- 2017 legislation.
  • We have put it into TEAM, so everything goes into one place. Like candidate filing, the primaries and general election information.
  • Rep. Klick- there is not currently a field that would note if the candidate filed via petition or a filing fee, could that be included on the webpage?
    • Yes.

Chris Davis, Texas Association of Elections Administrators

  • Counties are learning to comply and are complying. It is easier to convey information.
  • While the SOS has the data, implementing it on the website means more manpower.
    • During appropriations, this needs to be considered in terms of funding, resources and personnel for the SOS.
  • Rep. Middleton- are you compensated for your role with TAEA?
    • No.
  • Rep. Middleton- we saw you a lot this session. You spent a lot of time here, worked with a lot of members and you were very involved in visiting member’s offices. Are you a registered lobbyist?
    • No.
  • Rep. Middleton- so you were able to make your voice heard without having to register as a lobbyist?
    • Yes, more often than not.
  • Rep. Bucy- do you have an idea how much more manpower or money would you need?
    • Ingram- we have five personnel now and we could use at least two more.
  • Rep. Klick- Chris, did you notice if the number of PIRs, for candidate lists, decreased?
    • We think it did. To have the resource was essential.
    • Ingram- I agree and we made it to where you can create your own report.
    • Rep. Klick- so you do not have to use personnel to fulfil these PIRs?
      • Ingram- correct.

HB 1421

Keith Ingram, Office of the Secretary of State

  • HB 1421 required users to have training on cyber hygiene.
  •  2,173 county election workers, voter registration officials and district clerks and county chairs have been trained.
  • Training is annually and we are working with the Department of Information Resources to be aligned with HB 3834.
  • We have reviewed security assessments (from the Center of Internet Security and the Belfer Center) and we have developed first draft of best practices.
    • We have sections that outline things election officials can do on their own and for them to work with their IT provider.
    • We have created an election toolkit.
    • We have adopted some best practices to administration rules, policy and procedures.
    • Want to educate county regarding these standards.
    • Then we will solidify the rules.
    • We want effort to be collaborative
  • HB 1421 requires counties to undergo the election security assessments. 68 have been performed, 8 underway and 170 are scheduled to occur.  
    • Newton and San Saba counties have refused, and we are trying to work with them.
      • Rep. Klick- Are they apart of TEAMS?
        • Yes, they are both online counties.
  • Rep. Israel- are you happy the passage of the bill, do you feel like you are getting the response-?
    • We are happy it passed. HB 1421 also requires counties who have a breach report to us and us to report them to you. Other states would like to have these rules.
  • Rep. Israel- you hired two?
    • Using federal funding we initially hired two election security officials. We will ask the state for more.
  • Rep. Israel- how much money will it take to keep this going? This is not a one-time expense.
    • Security is an ongoing process. We are using the one-time federal funds (2018) to assess the counties and get them to a baseline.
    • Federal funding came through in 2019 for election security. The issue is that it is one time use and must be used within five years.
    • We want to avoid committing ourselves to obligations that we cannot continue without federal money.
  • Rep. Israel- is there more federal funding on the horizon?
    • Not that I know of.
  • Rep. Israel- notes when new machines were purchased for counties and then upkeep lied with them. How much will you need to support your staff?
    • In our LAR last session, we asked for over 1 million for the biennium
  • Rep. Israel- any after thoughts or wishes for the bill?
    • No, it’s a good bill.
  • Rep. Israel- a report from the League of Women Voters noted that 80% of county websites are not secure. And a large majority do not contain an http website.
    • It is a part of our training to get an http or a dot gov domain
      • The issue is that domains are already bought, but they are easily spoofable.
  • Rep. Israel asks him to clarify what an https does for a website.
    • Https makes traffic encrypted.

Chris Davis, Texas Association of Elections Administrators

  • At least 214 counties are have gone through with the test or plan to. We will work on getting Newton County to comply.
  • They are generally welcoming because they do not have to spend out of their own budget.
  • Larger counties have prominent IT departments that want to be involved in assessing and remediating. Some counties are taking it slow.
  • There is a 20% stake match and we want to see how this is going to be used.
  • Counties know that no equipment upgrades could be purchased with that money.
  • Maybe this money could be used to address the perception of security.
    • Could federal money be used for media kits?
  • Rep. Klick- the work is very tedious. Makes note about security breaches are easy and have occurred.

HB 2504

Keith Ingram, Office of the Secretary of State

  • HB 2504 lowered the threshold that a 3rd party needs to have to maintain valid access (to 2%).
  • HB 2504 requires convention candidates with a filing fee or submit a candidate petition.
  • We aim to treat all candidates the same.
  • Their application needs to be filed with their party chair in a 30-day window and submit a filing fee or petition with the SOS or the county judge.
  • A couple lawsuits are pending. One in federal court in Austin and in Harris state district court.
  • An injunction was issued by the judge in Harris and is on appeal in the 14th court of appeals.
  • Rep. Swanson- when will the case be decided on if these 3rd party candidates will pay a fee?
    • HB 2504 does not apply to independent candidates. They file via declaration of intent.
    • For third party candidates, this requirement remains in effect unless court rules otherwise.
  • Rep. Swanson- the injunction did not stop them from paying the money?
    • It aimed to stop that, but it did not go into effect and they did have to pay.
  • Rep. Swanson- we could not find the website listing for third party and independent candidates-
    • We do not have that posted. We were advised by council to not have that information listed, but we can send you that information.

Chris Davis, Texas Association of Elections Administrators

  • Not much impact for county election officials.

HB 4130

Keith Ingram, Office of the Secretary of State

  • HB 4130 requires SOS to prescribe specific requirements for the standardization of poll books.
  • We addressed specific functional standards that address the check-in process.
    • Modeled the certification process after Indiana and Ohio.
    • Used the strict security requirements from Virginia and California.
  •  Rules were posted as final on October 15, 2019. The certification process began the first week of December 2019.
  • Poll book vendors are now required to use any NIST certified testing lab.
    • Provided a copy of poll book standards to the two poll-book familiar labs.
  • Require functional testing and to be examined by the formal and informal examination teams.
  • 6 vendors are currently under certification: ES&S, KnowInk, Tenx, VOTEC, Content Active and Montgomery County.
  •  All certification letters should be issued by the end of this week and up on the website.
  • We are going to develop specific test cases to add consistency to the poll books.
  • Vendors will be required to develop a Texas requirements document.
  • We are going to move to an interoperable format.
  • Poll books will have to be certified annually. Another round of certification will happen next fall.
  • Rep. Swanson- many complaints and the associated complications are large concerns.
    • Gives an example of the speed of Harris County check in data. We did not have any complaints concerning a lag of connectivity.
  • Rep. Klick- can you tell us about the reported issue Dallas had with their poll books?
    • Dallas required any poll book communication to have WPA2 encryption levels
      • The vendor (Tenx) could not meet those encryption levels.
    • The set up did not allow poll books to communicate with printers.
    • They are looking for another solution that is more direct in contact.
  • Rep. Klick- other county are using that vendor as well, so are they having issues?
    • Tarrant, Travis and Hays are not having those issues because it was an equipment configuration problem. Which is why we want a more interoperable format.

Chris Davis, Texas Association of Elections Administrators

  • Because it is ongoing implementation, there is not a lot that counties can comment on.
  • We were a part of this process with this bill and understand the need for it.
  • 74% of all Texas voters are voting in county elections under the county-wide polling program.
  • Placing voters at locations is important
  • E-poll books have a more structured system than before. The human interface is out. E-poll books are tightly integrated with the check-in system and the ballot card.
    • Certification and regulation are warranted.
  • Rep. Klick- would you say the system is more integrated and seamless?
    • It is more integrated. We hope as more counties get used to it, it will become seamless.
    • We are waiting for the interoperability our new formats will bring as it will ease migration between vendors.

Public Testimony

Cinde Weatherby, League of Women Voters of Texas, Self

  • Discussed HB 933 and county election website use.
  • The LOWV reviews county websites for election information.
  • The current evaluation and survey included HB 933 information.
  • Another evaluation will occur next primary and before the November election.
  • We work with SOS and we believe they are doing a good job in accessibility of information.
  • Security is a high priority and we support additional resources/funding for the SOS.
  • We know people want information that is accurate and reliable.
    • We trust in the SOS’s information.
  • Rep. Cortez- I was looking at your list of outstanding county websites- what can Bayer County do better?
    • It is our goal to give all counties the resources to do the best they can.
    • Go to the county website review online to find out what each county have been reviewed as.
    • Rep. Cortez discusses how he will be in talks with Bayer County officials about this data.

James Slattery, Texas Civil Rights Project

  • Discussed HB 4130 regard to monitor county-wide polling and the number and location.
  • County-wide voting has improved voting in Texas.
  • County-wide voting is spreading across Texas and increasing in popularity.
  • In 2020, as most as 75% of Texas will live with county-wide voting centers.
  • County-wide polling solves the wrong precinct problem and is easier for voters.
  • As Beth Stevens testified last September, we believe the legislature should adopt a new limit on the number of polling places that may be closed under this program.
    • No more than 20% of precinct-based polling place should be closed.
  • Rep. Klick- many counties are not reducing the number of polling places; they have that option.
    • Yes, I agree.

Bill Kelsey, Self

  • Discussed HB 2504.
  • Libertarians appreciated the lower threshold, but noticed the fees.
  • We believed we would be on the ballot without fees.
  • As we have no primaries, there is no need for us to pay a fee.
  • Gathering petition signatures is difficult and the rules are confusing and unclear.
  • The difficulties in the process have caused 3rd party and libertarian candidates to be silenced.
  • The market of voters should decide who should be on the ballot.
  • When libertarians are dominant- we will never do anything to keep others off the ballot.

Ed Johnson, Self

  • Discussed HB 4130.
  • In Harris county it took three days before they uploaded the list of who voted by mail.
    • This caused the possibility of people voting twice.
  • Need to refine rules that approve poll books for them to meet standards.
  • Helped architect the poll book in Harris County. Judges want a list of who voted in their poll. They liked the paper poll list. Judge is responsible to those votes, so they want a record.
    • Harris County has not been providing that with the electric poll book.
  • HB 4130 started as that one requirement; to provide a list of who voted in that polling location.
  • Rules should make sure electronic poll books are provided in some form.
  • Rep. Cain- did they pull the voter history to see if anyone voted twice?
    • No, I don’t know of any incidents. An election judge noticed it in early voting.

Alan Vera, Chairman of the Harris County Republican Ballot Security Committee

  • Discussed the implementation of HB 4130 in Harris County.
  • This committee has lost the confidence of election judges by not being implemented the bills the same as written or asking election judges for their opinion on how to fix the issues.
  • The poll book and the poll list help election judges check the validity of votes.
  • HB 4130 states that judges get the list of voters.
  • On election night, I did not have that information.
    • There was no way to reconcile if the numbers are correct.
  • HB 4130 enforces that the iPads are constantly updated
    • Mine never synced up.
  • Discussed that he was the one who noticed the three-day gap in the uploading of data for those who voted by mail.
  • The committee needs to have significant weight on feedback from election judges.

Ted Brown, Libertarian Party of Texas, Self

Rep. Swanson calls Keith Ingram back to ask him a question.

  • Rep. Swanson- when and how do we get this candidate list?
    • Members will have it this afternoon by email.
    •  Anyone who wants the list can request it from the SOS’s office.
  • Rep. Cain- is there any reason why 3rd party candidates are not on the website?
    • There is not a statutory requirement for it. They will be included after the primaries.

Meeting Adjourned