AUSTIN, Texas (CN) – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton rejected a demand Thursday by congressional Democrats to hand over documents relating to the state’s bungled announcement that 95,000 registered voters may not be citizens, telling federal lawmakers they lack jurisdiction in the matter.
First Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey C. Mateer wrote the House Committee on Oversight’s March 28 demand does not qualify as a subpoena under House rules or as a request for information under federal law, meaning Paxton must interpret the demand under state law.
“Due to pending litigation, as well as ongoing criminal investigations, our office believes the information at issue is excepted from require public disclosure under the [Texas Public Information Act] and intends to request a ruling on the applicability of our arguments from the Open Records Division of the [Office of the Attorney General],” the three-page letter states.
Paxton, a Republican, accused federal lawmakers of sticking their noses into Texas’ efforts to stamp out illegal voting.
“Specifically, the committee appears to be inserting itself into the statutorily required efforts on the part of state officials to detect and prosecute non-citizen voting,” Paxton said in a written statement.
U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, D-Md., had written to Texas Secretary of State David Whitley – also a Republican – because he was “disturbed by reports that your office has taken steps to remove thousands of eligible American voters” from voter rolls and then referred them to Paxton for prosecution.
“Since you sent this advisory, however, reports have indicated that your office erroneously flagged tens of thousands of voters, including at least 18,000 voters in Harris County, more than 1,700 voters in Dallas County, all the voters flagged in McLennan County, and even a staff member for the El Paso County election administrator,” Cummings wrote.
In announcing the voter fraud list in January, Whitley said approximately 58,000 of those flagged have since voted in at least one Texas election. He issued the advisory to county voter registrars to confirm each person’s citizenship status, stating the list resulted from a year-long comparison of Texas Department of Safety records and voter rolls.
Whitley did not go as far as to say all 58,000 definitely voted illegally, nor did he say when or how the results of county investigations would be made public. It is unknown how many of the flagged voters have since become naturalized citizens.
President Donald Trump quickly reacted to the announcement by incorrectly tweeting within days that “58,000 non-citizens voted in Texas, with 95,000 non-citizens registered to vote” in the state. Trump has insisted without evidence that 3 million people voted illegally in the 2016 general election that cost him the popular vote.
The League of United Latin American Citizens, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas have filed separate lawsuits in Texas federal courts, claiming the list suppresses voters and violates their civil rights.
Cummings told Whitley to product documents received from DPS “that served as the basis for the advisory,” communications with Paxton’s office and communications with Governor Greg Abbott and Trump, among others.
The bulk of the letter from Paxton’s office touted the successful prosecution of illegal voting cases in the state.
“Last year alone, the Election Fraud unit of our office prosecuted 33 defendants for a total of 97 individual violation of election integrity laws, and we continue to have a backlog of at least 70 pending matters,” the letter stated.