We in Guadalupe County should be thankful for Elections Administrator Lisa Adam and her staff who are handling the Secretary of State’s attempt to purge voters with dedication and professionalism. When Secretary of State David Whitley’s office decided to send lists of 95,000 registered voters that it hadn’t confirmed were citizens it was touted on social media as a “voter fraud alert”.
In Cameron County where the list contained 366 names not a single one was found to be a non-citizen. Travis and Harris Counties are still working their lists which number in the thousands but so far they’ve cleared more than half of the people on their lists. As of Tuesday morning, the state had revised the list, reducing it by half.
This whole effort seems to be aimed at spreading anxiety in two ways; first to rev up the Republican base with claims of vast numbers of ineligible voters and second to suppress the votes of Latino voters to whom the majority of names on the state’s list belong.
Gov. Greg Abbott just nominated David Whitley to the Secretary of State post and that nomination is currently before a committee in the Texas Senate. Whitley is facing tough questions about his actions and his understanding of the concept of voter suppression.
Several groups that work on voter registration and empowerment have notified the Secretary Whitley that his office is in violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) which sets out requirements with for the administration of voter registration and protects registered voters against wrongful removal from voter rolls in Section 8. The NVRA protects duly registered voters from improper removal by requiring states to “ensure that any eligible applicant is registered to vote” and mandating that, once the voter is on the rolls, the state “shall not remove” that voter except in a few limited circumstances: at the request of the registrant; by reason of criminal conviction or mental incapacity as provided by state law; or pursuant to a general program of voters list maintenance that makes a reasonable effort to remove voters who become ineligible due to death or a change in residence.
When anyone, including these naturalized citizens on the state’s list, submits a voter registration application they are require to sign under penalty of perjury affirming their U.S. citizenship. The guidelines sent with the advisory suggests removal from the voter rolls for anyone who can’t be readily matched to citizenship records unless they come forward and provide documentary proof of their citizenship. This violates the obligation on Texas under the NVRA to ensure that eligible applicants who submit valid registration forms are registered to vote and are removed only for one of the statutorily-specified reasons.
Failure to provide citizenship documentation is not one of the permissible grounds for removal of a duly registered voter. There’s no doubt that the state is permitted to remove non-citizens who have somehow become registered to vote, but the NVRA does not permit an overboard program such as the one outlined in the Advisory that will inevitably sweep in significant numbers of eligible citizens due to the inadequacies of the Department of Public Safety’s database.
Numerous good government groups like the Common Cause Texas, of which I am chair, MOVE Texas Civic Fund, JOLT Initiative, the League of Women Voters of Texas, the ACLU of Texas, the Texas Civil Rights Project and the NAACP of Texas have raised their voice regarding this attempted purge. Some are suing the Secretary of State, others are calling for his nomination to be denied.