Federal judge orders counties to stop removing names from voter rolls

Texas

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A federal judge in San Antonio has ordered states to tell counties not to remove any names from the current voter registration list. This comes with Texas’ effort to combat voting by alleged “non-citizens.” 

According to an order from United States District Judge Fred Biery filed Wednesday, the Secretary of State is ordered to tell counties who are not being sued and who won’t agree to hold off to not send letters of examination or remove any voters from registration without approval from the court showing the person is ineligible to vote.

“The evidence has shown in a hearing before this Court that there is no widespread voter fraud,” Biery wrote. “The challenge is how to ferret the infinitesimal needles out of the haystack of 15 million Texas voters. The Secretary of State through his dedicated employees, beginning in February 2018, made a good faith effort to transition from a passive process of finding ineligible voters through the jury selection system in each county to a proactive process using tens of thosuands of Department of Public Safety driver license records matched with voter registration records. Notwithstanding good intentions, the road to a solution was inherently paved with flawed results, meaning perfectly legal naturalized Americans were burdened with what the Court finds to be ham-handed and threatening correspondence from the state which did not politely ask for information but rather exemplifies the power of government to strike fear and anxiety and to intimidate the least powerful among us.”

A list of 98,000 names was released of people who were believed to be non-citizens and voted illegally in Texas elections, but because the Secretary of State’s employees used Department of Public Safety driver’s license records, the results have proven to be flawed. The names of legal, naturalized citizens were on that list and upon sending it out, the state’s office realized that at least 25,000 names should not have been included.

“The Court further finds and concludes the Secretary of State, though perhaps unintentionally,
created this mess,” Biery wrote.

He also denied a motion from lawmakers to dismiss the case.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement late Wednesday afternoon in response to the order.

“Today’s ruling involves a federal district court improperly assuming control over key aspects of the State’s obligation under federal and state law to maintain the integrity of its voter rolls,” Attorney General Paxton said. “While we appreciate the court’s acknowledgment that the Secretary of State took his actions in good faith, no state official violated any applicable law and there is no need for a federal court takeover of state activities. We are weighing our options to address this ruling and to continue making our case that ineligible voters should not vote and counties are free to continue to follow the law and keep their voter rolls clean.” 

Paxton also said his office is weighing options to address the ruling and continue making the case “that ineligible voters should not vote and counties are free to continue to follow the law and keep their voter rolls clean.”

The Secretary of State may work to release new lists monthly of possible non-citizens who voted illegally based on driver’s licenses and applications to register to vote, and without communicating with the person directly. 

In a statement, Domingo Garcia, National President of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) said: 

“There is no voter fraud and today’s court decision is a clear victory for civil rights justice led by LULAC together with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Texas Civil Rights Project and the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). Judge Biery’s order proves the actions by Texas Secretary of State David Whitley and Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General to purge 98,000 names from voter rolls, including Latinos are part of a deliberate voter suppression plan and will not be tolerated.”

So far, of the 98,000 names released, only 80 have been identified as ineligible to vote. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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