AUSTIN (KXAN) — Governor Greg Abbott tells KXAN he continues to have confidence in Secretary of State David Whitley, who's recently embroiled in controversy over a "non-citizen" voter list his office released two weeks ago.
Whitley faces a public hearing Thursday morning in the Senate Nominations Committee, a necessary step before a two-thirds confirmation vote of the full Senate to keep his job.
"People need to understand what's going on here, which no one seems to know, all he is doing is following federal law and state law. A lot of people don't know that he was required to do what he did based upon federal and state law which require a constant updating of voter rolls," Abbott said, when asked.
In late January, Secretary of State David Whitley's office released a list of 95,000 names to Texas counties, claiming they were non-citizens on the voter rolls, some even voting in Texas elections. The list was compiled by the Department of Public Safety.
According to Abbott, the list was meant to be verified by county election officials at the state and was even labeled by the Secretary of State as a "weak" match.
Days later, county officials going through the list found thousands of citizens on the list. Two types of people were mistakenly placed on the list: "motor voters" who register to vote while renewing their drivers license and people who have been naturalized since going to driver license locations.
Latino and voting advocacy groups have filed numerous lawsuits claiming the action was a botched attempt by the state government to purge citizens from the voter rolls.
The Texas Secretary of State's office confirmed in January that list was also referred to the Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for possible prosecution. Paxton even tweeted a "Voter Fraud Alert" when the news broke.
But when asked about the concerns of county officials — that the AG had the list before counties could vet it — Abbott said he didn't know the details.
"I can't even confirm that happened. All I know is what the process is, that it has to be passed to the counties before it's confirmed about who is or who is not allowed to be on the voter rolls," Abbott said.
Whitley is expected to elaborate about what happened during this process at the Senate committee hearing.
"There's one thing we can all agree on. We don't want anybody who's ineligible to vote to be able to vote. At the same time we don't want anybody who is eligible to vote being denied the ability to vote," said Abbott.