SAN ANTONIO (CN) – Latino voters in Texas are being targeted for voter suppression, a civil rights group claims in a federal lawsuit filed days after state officials said that 95,000 registered voters may not be U.S. citizens.
The League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, sued Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Secretary of State David Whitley, both Republicans, in San Antonio federal court on Tuesday for alleged violations of the Voting Rights Act.
The lawsuit, filed by LULAC’s in-house attorney Luis Roberto Vera Jr., claims Paxton and Whitley “carefully crafted” a voter fraud program meant to intimidate Hispanic voters from showing up for the state’s upcoming May elections.
“It’s clear that the right-wing elements in Texas government are trying to rig the system to keep power and disenfranchise 95,000 American citizens,” LULAC National President Domingo Garcia said in a statement. “There is no voter fraud in Texas, it’s a lie, repeated time and again to suppress minority voters and we’re going to fight hard against it.”
The advisory to county voter registrars came on Friday when Whitley’s office said it had flagged 95,000 potential non-citizen voters during a year-long investigation into Texas Department of Public Safety records and voter rolls. He said approximately 58,000 of those flagged have since voted in one or more Texas elections.
Whitley did not go as far as to say all 58,000 definitively voted illegally, nor did he say when or how the results of the county investigations will be made public.
The announcement was met with immediate push back from a coalition of civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. The groups sent a letter to Whitley demanding he rescind his advisory, and urged county officials to essentially ignore it until the data used to support the claims are released.
“The ‘investigation’ outlined by the secretary of state is woefully inadequate and risks purging thousands of eligible Texans from the voting rolls,” said Beth Stevens, voting rights legal director with the Texas Civil Rights Project.
LULAC’s lawsuit seeks to invalidate the advisory and block the state from continuing the investigation it called “an election-related ‘witch hunt.’”
“It is, in short, a plan carefully calibrated to intimidate legitimate registered voters from continuing to participate in the election process and to enlist the broader public into joining the two officials in concentrated pressure against such continued participation,” the 10-page complaint says.
A spokesman for Attorney General Paxton said in a statement, “We look forward to appearing in court to defend Texas’ right to limit the state’s voting registration rolls to those actually eligible to vote.”
Texas began its biennial legislative session earlier this month and lawmakers have already filed a flurry of election-related bills, including a Republican-sponsored proposal that would require an applicant to verify their citizenship before registering to vote.