Someone get Texas Secretary of State David Whitley one sequined glove, please. Last week Whitley dethroned the late Michael Jackson as king of the moonwalk, appearing to move forward while walking backward. On Jan. 25, Whitley and Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that as many as 58,000 noncitizens may have cast ballots in Texas elections between 1996 and 2018, and as many as 95,000 noncitizens were registered to vote.
It was a bombshell announcement Paxton dropped late on a Friday afternoon, exploiting the news cycle to get word out over the weekend, before reporters could examine the numbers closely. "Voter fraud alert," Paxton wrote in a tweet. "Tip of the iceberg," the tweeter in chief said from the White House the following Sunday.
Then came Monday, time to cue "Billie Jean." Whitley faced a deluge of media reports picking apart his and Paxton's political stunt. Alexa Ura's coverage at the Texas Tribune was especially good, but newspapers and television stations across the state got in their licks on a clearly flawed process. (Potential problems with the numbers were pretty clear from the outset. For example, the lists were drawn by comparing the names of noncitizens holding Texas driver's licenses with names on voting rolls. It was possible, likely even, that some "noncitizens" became citizens after they got their driver's licenses but neglected to tell the DPS. That's not required, and naturally no red-blooded American, even a new one, will get anywhere near a DMV office unless absolutely necessary.)
It's clear at this point that thousands of voters included in the advisories Whitley sent to county voter registrars across the state as potential noncitizens shouldn't have been on the list in the first place. They, as the Secretary of State's Office confirmed in a post-advisory round of phone calls, had already proved their citizenship to the state.
Everyone seemed to catch on pretty quickly. This was a scam intended to help push through tougher voter registration laws. Everyone except Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who called the attempted purge a "work in progress" Thursday, and the Dallas County Republican Party.
Friday afternoon, for the second day in a row, the Dallas County GOP pushed out a breathless media advisory, admonishing all who read it not to look behind the curtain.
"Don’t let the debate over initial data deter you, this is an important research effort," Dallas County GOP Chairwoman Missy Shorey says.
To reiterate: Paxton's tweet was labeled "voter fraud alert," not "important research effort alert."
The Dallas County elections department, Shorey says, must "[w]ork in full cooperation and transparency with the Texas Secretary of State and Texas Attorney General’s offices in order to defend democracy in Dallas County and the Lone Star State."
That's what all this was about then. Defending democracy. It definitely was not some version of political "rat-fucking," the term for dirty tricks that was coined by Richard Nixon's campaign staff. No, this was serious. Beware the immigrant slipping into the state to destroy democracy — in between hours working at a low-wage job or three.
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Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole told the Observer earlier this week she's going through the nearly 10,000 names sent to the county by Whitley's office to see which of them never should've been on the list in the first place. Once the county completes that task, it will rely on an opinion from the Dallas County District Attorney's Office about what to do with any remaining names.
No matter how few voter records even end up being scrutinized, Shorey insists that illegal votes may have stopped Republicans from getting elected.
“Having non-U.S. citizens on the voter rolls is a significant blow to election integrity, which already suffers from hundreds, if not thousands of fraudulent mail-in ballots believed to be cast in Dallas County each election cycle,” Shorey says. “Even a small number of votes can impact an election. For example, Republican Kenneth Sheets lost by 836 votes in the 2016 Texas House District 107 race. How many votes in HD-107 were fraudulent or ineligible?”
The chairwoman's choice of example is instructive. Morgan Meyer beat Joanna Cattanach by just 220 votes in Texas House District 108 in 2018, but Meyer is a Republican and Cattanach is a Democrat. No chance that those who might cast an illegal ballot might cast one for a Republican candidate, right?