Someday, the rollout by the Texas Secretary of State and Attorney General of the names of 95,000 people suspected of committing voter fraud may be a case study in how not to run a government.
Secretary of State David Whitley, on Jan. 25, said his office had checked the state’s voter registration rolls against the Department of Public Safety’s list of non-U.S. citizens to see if there was illegal voting.
It found 95,000 matches, he said, and included 58,000 who had voted in one or more elections since 1996.
Whitley – former deputy chief of staff and appointments director for Gov. Greg Abbott, who appointed him Secretary of State on Dec. 17 – sent the lists for each county to local elections officials with instructions to investigate.
He also sent the list to Attorney General Ken Paxton. A person voting in an election in which they know they are ineligible is a second-degree felony, punishable by from two to 20 years in prison.
Whitley’s news release said he sent the list to the attorney general because the secretary of state has no “statutory enforcement authority to investigate or prosecute alleged illegal activity in connection with an election.”
The same day, a Twitter post from Paxton further dramatized the situation:
“VOTER FRAUD ALERT: The @TXsecofstatediscovered approx 95,000 individuals identified by DPS as non-U.S. citizens have a matching voter registration record in TX, approx 58,000 of whom have voted in TX elections. Any illegal vote deprives Americans of their voice.”
The attorney general also issued a news release:
“Every single instance of illegal voting threatens democracy in our state and deprives individual Texans of their voice,” Paxton said. “We’re honored to have partnered with the Texas Secretary of State’s office in the past on voter initiatives and we will spare no effort in assisting with these troubling cases. My Election Fraud Unit stands ready to investigate and prosecute crimes against the democratic process when needed.”
But their announcements of the names of potential non-citizens illegally voting backed up in the governmental pipes almost immediately.
County election officials expressed wariness about how reliable and thorough the investigations had been – as well as the assumptions behind them.
President Donald Trump, who has insisted illegal voting was responsible for him losing the popular vote by almost 3 million votes to Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, rebroadcast the Texas charges to proclaim “voter fraud is rampant” across the nation.
Once the lists were in the hands of local election officials, those in several counties almost immediately found thousands of people who had voted, but were also citizens, so shouldn’t have been included.
A major problem was that a significant number had received their driver’s licenses from the Department of Public Safety while legally in the country but not yet citizens. They later had become naturalized citizens, but that information wasn’t required to be passed on to DPS.
So basically, thousands of citizens who had voted were challenged to prove their citizenship, when they had already gotten it.
“I just wish they’d spent more time working on this instead of putting all that effort into the press release,” Bruce Elfant, the Travis County elections administrator, told the Austin American-Statesman. “We’re dealing with people’s constitutional rights and possible voter fraud.”
Not only did local election officials complain about incomplete research by the offices of the secretary of state and attorney general as a waste of time, money, effort and credibility, but federal court challenges alleging efforts to frighten minority voters have been filed in federal courts in San Antonio and Corpus Christi.
The League of United Latin American Citizens lawsuit in San Antonio charged that forcing naturalized citizens to prove they are legitimate voters is a “witch hunt” and a “plan carefully calibrated to intimidate legitimate registered voters from continuing to participate in the election process.”
State Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas – a member of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus committee created to scrutinize the citizenship review – called the crackdown “nothing short of a political attack on Latino naturalized citizens.”
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund lawsuit, filed Jan. 31 in Corpus Christi federal court, charges that Abbott, Whitley and Paxton worked together to deny voting rights based on race and national origin.
So far, though the secretary of state’s office has made some calls to county officials warning them of some of the problems with the information, it apparently has not agreed to just withdraw the lists and start over.
It will be interesting to see if the officials can bring themselves to do that without the courts forcing them to. It could make a good case study.
This article provided by NewsEdge.