AUSTIN (KXAN) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas along with several other groups filed a lawsuit against Texas state officials for what the ACLU describes as the “creation and rollout of a flawed voter purge list that discriminates against naturalized citizens.”
The state officials named in the suit are Texas Secretary of State David Whitley and Director of Elections Keith Ingram. The lawsuit alleges election officials from three Central Texas counties — Blanco, Fayette and Caldwell — along with officials from Galveston and Washington counties sent out notices threatening to cancel voter registrations based on a list the Texas Secretary of State’s Office released Jan. 25.
During voter registration maintenance, the Secretary of State’s Office announced on January 25, about 95,000 people identified by the Texas Department of Public Safety as non-U.S. citizens have a matching voting registration record, and 58,000 of those people voted in one or more state elections over 22 years.
“We’ve seen this playbook before where a large number is floated, and it turns out to be based on very flawed methodology,” said Tommy Buser-Clancy, Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Texas.
He said checking the DPS records “doesn’t account for the idea that people can become naturalized citizens at any point.”
Buser-Clancy told KXAN the Secretary of State knew naturalized citizens would be included in the list, but put it out any way.
“Absolutely. We think they knew that the methodology they used was going to include naturalized citizens, and they went ahead and gave that,” he said.
The plaintiffs in the case include MOVE Texas Civic Fund, Jolt Initiative, League of Women Voters in Texas and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of Texas. The groups want the courts to declare Whitley’s advisory as unconstitutional and in violation of the Voting Rights Act. They also want the courts to block all Texas counties from sending people notices to prove their citizenship or remove any registered voter from the rolls if they don’t respond.
Whitley was also sent a pre-litigation notice letter calling for the halt of the purge within 90 days or face another lawsuit under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.
What’s been happening since the list came out
Since January 25, the Secretary of State’s Office has been giving each county a list of voters who may be non-citizens.
The state said voter registrars should send those voters a letter, asking to provide proof of citizenship within 30 days.
Travis, Hays and Williamson Counties have not sent out such letters yet.
“I can send out a letter telling people they’re receiving a tax refund and only get 30 percent response rate,” said Travis County Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant.
Instead, each county is reviewing each person’s information to verify his or her citizenship status.
If they discover that the person is a naturalized citizen, they’re removing that name from the list.
“It’s very tedious, time-consuming work,” Elfant explained. “We have to look at each record manually, and it is taking a lot of time.”
Williamson County Elections Administrator Christopher Davis said his office has been doing the same thing. He said getting information from Bexar County about some people who became naturalized in a ceremony held in San Antonio helped a lot.
So far, three Central Texas counties have removed thousands of names from the lists:
- Travis County: From 4,558 names to 3,257 names
- Williamson County: From 2,033 names to about 1,000
- Hays County: From 372 names to 245