Texas Official on the Outs Due to Bogus Voter Fraud List

AUSTIN (CN) — The confirmation of Texas’ interim election chief appears doomed as all 12 Democrats in the Texas Senate will vote against him due to the embarrassing release of a flawed voter fraud list that resulted in three civil rights lawsuits and accusations of voter suppression.

Acting Secretary of State David Whitley arrives for his confirmation hearing in Austin on Feb. 7, 2019. (AP file photo/Eric Gay)

Republican Secretary of State David Whitley needs two-thirds of the 31-member Senate to vote in his favor. There are 19 Republicans in the chamber, meaning at least two Democrats must vote with them for an appointee to be confirmed.

At the prodding of their party and civil rights groups, the Democrat senators, one-by-one, began announcing their opposition to Whitley on Thursday. One of the last undecided senators, Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, announced on Friday that Whitley’s release of the list “displayed a lack of oversight that will be difficult to mend.”

 “I cannot in good conscience approve a nominee who, contrary to the responsibilities of their position, has caused turmoil and fear among many Texas voters,” she said in a statement. “My decision is only reflective of what acting Secretary Whitley’s actions have shown and the consequences of his actions.”

State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, reaffirmed his opposition to Whitley on Friday, tweeting that he has “been a no on Whitley since the beginning” and has been telling his constituents so for weeks.

“I personally known several naturalized citizens who were on the list and find it unacceptable that they would be asked to prove their citizenship,” he tweeted.

Whitley, appointed two months ago by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, made headlines when he issued a voter fraud advisory on Jan. 25 to county voter registrars that claimed 95,000 registered voters were flagged as possible noncitizens when they applied for state drivers’ licenses or identification cards. He asked local officials to confirm each person’s citizenship status, stating that approximately 58,000 of those flagged have voted in at least one Texas election. The list was compiled during a yearlong investigation of Texas Department of Public Safety records and voter rolls.

Whitley reported the names to Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office for possible prosecution. Voting illegally as a noncitizen in Texas is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Whitley did not go as far as to say all 58,000 voted illegally, nor did he say when or how the results of the county investigations would be made public. It is unknown how many of the flagged voters have become naturalized citizens.

That did not stop President Donald Trump from incorrectly tweeting 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 and cost him the popular vote.

Officials in several larger Texas counties have since reported substantial errors in the number of names Whitley’s office forwarded to them.

Officials in Harris County, home of Houston, have said nearly 18,000 of the 30,000 people flagged will be removed.

Dallas County officials said that more than 1,700 of their nearly 10,000 flagged names were incorrect.

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 votes and violates voters’ civil rights.

Whitley first spoke publicly about the flawed list during his confirmation hearing on Feb. 7 before the Senate Committee on Nominations. He did not apologize and largely deflected questions on errors his office made.

The committee appears to have not liked his answers, as it has since punted twice on voting on his appointment. Whitley finally apologized for his office’s errors on Feb. 13 in a letter to state lawmakers, stating that in hindsight “more time should have been devoted to additional communication with the counties and DPS to further eliminate” those eligible to vote from the list.

“I recognize this caused some confusion about our intentions, which were at all times aimed at maintaining the accuracy and integrity of the voter rolls,” Whitely wrote. “To the extent my actions missed that mark, I apologize.”

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