Scrutiny over failed citizenship check continues after Secretary of State’s resignation

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Two Central Texas Congressmen are asking for an apology from Governor Abbott and will redouble their effort to get Congress to file suit against Texas over its failed citizenship review.

Earlier this year, Secretary of State David Whitley released a list of 95,000 ‘non-citizens’ who voted in recent Texas election; however, thousands of them were citizens of the United States with voting rights after they were naturalized. 

Whitley later resigned after the State of Texas settled with Latino rights advocates and the Texas Senate refused to confirm him in the post. He then was offered his old job back — which paid more than Secretary of State — in Governor Greg Abbott’s office. Abbott originally appointed Whitley to the job. 

Now, Central Texas Congressmen Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, and Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, say Governor Abbott now has more explaining to do. They called for a Congressional subpoena to turn over more documents about this effort at a Friday press conference in Austin.

Two emails emerged this week through a LULAC public information request. The Democratic Congressmen point to them, saying Abbott started the effort to take names off the voter rolls.
Abbott’s office says not at all; a sentiment echoed by the Department of Public Safety.

A spokeswoman there says the Governor did not start the non-citizen voter list, instead it was the Secretary of State in March 2018.

“Neither the Governor, nor the Governor’s office gave a directive to initiate this process as the emails show,” said Governor Abbott spokesman John Wittman, earlier this week. 

Katherine Cesinger, from the Department of Public Safety, wrote, “In August 2018, the governor’s office requested that DPS conduct a cyber security threat assessment of the state’s election infrastructure, as well as provide the SOS with whatever information they needed to protect the integrity of the election process.”

The emails show Amanda Arriaga from Drivers License Division in the DPS writing “The Governor is interested in getting this information as soon as possible.”  After that, John Crawford, a Texas DPS information technology manager writes “we delivered this information earlier in the year, and we have an urgent request from the Governor’s Office to do it again.” 

“The way I read it, they basically gave an order,” said Castro.

“He’s very close to the Secretary of State, who acted immediately after appointed, that he has a lot of explaining to do,” said Doggett.

“If the Governor is not taking ownership of what former Secretary of State did, why did he turn around and rehire him at a job that pays him over $200,000 a year? So he clearly agrees with the actions that the former Secretary of State took,” said Castro.

In response, Abbott’s Deputy Press Secretary Nan Tolson wrote KXAN: “Congressmen Castro and Doggett showed that they are as ineffective at spinning lies as they are at working for Texans in Washington D.C.”

The Congressional Committee of Oversight and Reform is investigating the state over this action.

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