‘Very unsettling’: Thousands of Texas voters wrongly on non-citizen list

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Workers at the Travis County Tax Office have been taking calls from people worried they could lose their right to vote.

It comes after Texas Secretary of State David Whitley issued an advisory late last month telling voter registrars across Texas to check the citizenship of thousands of registered voters.

Whitley said his office worked with DPS to identify approximately 95,000 registered voters from across Texas as non-citizens. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and even President Trump touted the list as evidence of widespread voter fraud in Texas.

But local officials soon found thousands of Texans were wrongly placed on the list.

Bruce Elfant from Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar discussed the process of reviewing the list, and the actions that must be taken upon review Sunday on the State of Texas politics program.

Elfant said the registrar has been busy since the releasing of the list. “The initial guidance we got from the Secretary of State was to remove people who registered to vote at the Department of Public Safety when they were getting their drivers license. We removed those folks and now we’re working on people who got a drivers license before they became citizens but subsequently may have become citizens through naturalization processes,” Elfant said.

The original notice from the Secretary of State listed 4,558 registered voters as non-citizens. 

Elfant said they’re hearing from a number of people asking if they’re on the list. “A lot of them are very concerned and especially people who took many years and hardships to become citizens of the United States,” he said. “They registered to vote and now they’re hearing that they’re on this list and may get knocked off and that’s very unsettling for a lot of people.”

A review removed 645 voters from the list after verification that a valid application was submitted to DPS by a citizen. Then 868 voters were removed from the list after verification that a valid application was submitted at a naturalization ceremony in Bexar or Travis County. The review also found 94 duplicate voters on the list. However, there are still 2,951 records currently being researched. 

Elfant said this is not something that has been required of county registrars before, that this process could take a period of weeks. 

The review process has had similar results in other counties. In Harris County, the original list had 29,822 records. That shrank to 11,555 after review. Work is still underway to review the remaining records on the list.

The error-filled list released by Whitley’s office has led to lawsuits filed against the state by civil rights groups. The League of United Latin American Citizens filed one lawsuit, calling the list an example of “voter intimidation and voter suppression of primarily Latino voters.”

Whitley was appointed as Secretary of State in December by Governor Greg Abbott. He needs to be confirmed by state lawmakers in order to keep the job. Whitley faced tough questions from lawmakers at his confirmation hearing Thursday at the Capitol.  A vote on whether to confirm his appointment could come later this week.
 

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