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Texas GOP officials face three lawsuits over their 'voter fraud' lie

They’re being sued for their transparently racist attempt to remove people from voter rolls.

By Lisa Needham - February 05, 2019
Voters at a polling place

Late last month, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley made the outrageous claim that 95,000 people who were not citizens were registered to vote in the state, and 58,000 of those people had voted in at least one election.

The claim quickly fell apart, and Texas Secretary of State’s office began to walk it back. However, the retraction and mea culpa were done much more quietly than the initial assertion. Now, the state faces three lawsuits over its transparently racist attempt to remove people from the voter rolls.

The trouble began with the way Whitley compiled his list of suspected vote fraudsters. All he did was match one list of people against another. First, he looked at who had applied to Texas’ Department of Public Safety (DPS) for a license or ID card and, at the time of application, indicated they were not citizens. He then compared that to voter registration information. Anyone that was a match, Whitley put on his list of people suspected of voting illegally.

In putting together that list, Whitley failed to look into whether someone became a naturalized citizen after they’d applied for a license or ID card. He also failed to account for the fact that some of the name comparisons were a weak match — someone with the same last name, but a different middle initial, for example.

One of the lawsuits, brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), points out the majority of naturalized citizens in Texas, by far, are Latino. And by targeting naturalized citizens, Texas is directly attacking Latino voters.

In Texas, Latino voters broke overwhelmingly for Beto O’Rourke, with 64% of Latino people supporting him over Ted Cruz. It’s not hard to see how removing newly naturalized Latino citizens from the voting rolls would benefit the Texas GOP.

Another lawsuit, this one initiated by the Texas and national branches of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), is a class action lawsuit. LULAC brought the lawsuit on behalf of newly naturalized citizens in Texas. People who are naturalized in Texas — roughly 50,000 people per year — don’t have to go back to DPS and tell them they are now a citizen. In other words, many people on that list may now be citizens. But Whitley and Ken Paxton, Texas’ attorney general, have threatened to prosecute people on the list and have told county election officials to give people only 30 days to prove their citizenship.

The ACLU of Texas also filed a lawsuit on behalf of a number of groups, including the League of Women Voters and the Texas Conference of the NAACP. That lawsuit alleges that Whitley and Texas’ director of elections, Keith Ingram, knew their list of 95,000 potential illegal voters was a flawed list, one that contained naturalized citizens eligible to vote, but they sent it out anyway.

Since the list was initially sent to counties back on January 25, thousands of people in several counties have been found to be eligible voters. At the same time, however, counties have already sent out material to others on those lists saying “there is reason to believe you may not be a United States citizen” and demanding a certified copy of citizenship papers within 30 days.

Of course, people may miss this letter and be removed from the rolls, even if they have proper citizenship papers. In the anti-immigrant climate of fear Trump has fostered, it isn’t farfetched to think that some people may be too intimidated to respond, even if they are citizens.

Whitley put together a sloppy list that could easily have been double-checked before sending it out. Refusing to do so is either rank incompetence or deliberate targeting of immigrant voters. Either option is not defensible.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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