“There are certain states where we still control legislatures and we still have governors,” he told Breitbart News in an interview recorded during the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, but published on March 9.
Election integrity came to the forefront in a dramatic way in 2020, with former President Donald Trump and his allies claiming that reduced security measures—primarily related to mail-in ballots—led to fraud that cheated him out of victory.
President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) annual meeting at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md., on Feb. 29, 2020. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
“I would encourage them to work with the legislature in those states and make sure that their laws are tightened up,” Paxton said, “because the credibility of these elections is so important.”
“We don’t want to be Venezuela,” he said. “We don’t want to be another country where people don’t trust the elections, where there’s really no reason to go vote if you don’t know if the integrity of the elections is good.”
Paxton took aim at states with lax election integrity laws, especially around mail-in ballots, such as not requiring photo ID or signature verification. In instances like these, Paxton said, “you’ve got a real problem having any credibility in your elections, and that harms democracy.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during the launch of an antitrust investigation into large tech companies outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Sept. 9, 2019. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
The Texas AG took a prominent role in the contest-of-election thrust following voter fraud allegations in November. He led Texas’s legal efforts to challenge election results in four battleground states before the U.S. Supreme Court, which was later dismissed due to lack of standing.
Local election integrity efforts have borne fruit, however, Paxton said.
“Texas initially had I think it was 12 lawsuits that we fought in our own state over judges, local officials trying to change our laws—that were passed by our state legislature—to force more mail-in ballots, to force us to not have signature verification when we do have mail-in ballots, and so we fought those and we won every single one of those lawsuits and we protected the integrity of our elections,” Paxton said in the interview.
He believes the election integrity fight is far from over and wants Republican legislatures to make the issue a top priority. And since the hotly contested 2020 election, GOP state legislators have been advancing bills to bolster election integrity, with lawmakers appearing to have been most active in Arizona and Georgia.
Poll workers count ballots inside the Maricopa County Election Department in Phoenix, on Nov. 5, 2020. (Olivier Touron/AFP via Getty Images)
While criticized by Democrats for making voting more difficult, election security measures are being demanded by many Republican voters, particularly in the six states where the GOP controls the legislatures but President Joe Biden claimed victory: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In all except New Hampshire, former President Donald Trump contested the results.
In the broader debate about election security, Republicans—and conservatives in general—have tended to argue that casting a vote is a privilege of citizenship that should be safeguarded with secure processes and restrictions, and that easing requirements around voting opens the process up to fraud and abuse.
Progressives and their Democrat allies tend to say that barriers to casting a ballot should be as low as possible and that the kind of security measures pushed by conservatives, such as stricter voter ID or proof-of-citizenship laws, amount to disenfranchisement. Progressives often frame the debate as between voter suppression and expansion, while conservatives tend to see it as election security versus vulnerability to abuse.
A truck leaves a polling place in Warren, Mich., on March 8, 2016. (Geoff Robins/AFP via Getty Images)
In the wake of the 2020 election controversy, Republican and Democratic lawmakers across the country have been pulling in opposite directions by introducing legislation that either reduces barriers—and guardrails—to voting or seeks to strengthen election integrity, which can also make casting a vote more burdensome.
The Brennan Center for Justice, an advocacy group that pushes for progressive policies, counted 106 bills in 28 states designed to tighten voting standards so far this year, a significant jump from last year. At the same time, 35 states introduced a total of 406 bills to make voting less restrictive, also an increase from last year.
Petr Svab contributed to this report.