Last month, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to turn over records showing exactly what state officials were up to earlier this year when they tried to purge nearly 100,000 voters from the state’s rolls.
Last week, as the deadline to comply with that request came and went, Paxton’s office told the committee they’ll turn over those records when — and if — they feel like it.
In a letter to the committee, First Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Mateer said that, because the committee doesn’t have jurisdiction over the dealings of Texas state government, the office would treat the matter as an ordinary request filed under the state's Public Information Act. Further, Mateer wrote that, because of pending litigation and ongoing investigations, officials in the Attorney General's Office don’t think they’re required to turn the documents over at all.
Mateer wrote that the office has "real, first-person experience showing the threat to election integrity in Texas is real."
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“Illegal voting undermines democracy in our state and deprives lawful voters of an effective voice in the election process," Mateer wrote. "The (attorney general's office) stands ready to ensure elections in Texas are conducted lawfully and to prosecute individuals who break those laws. We look forward to any assistance and cooperation the Committee can provide in this endeavor.”
In January, acting Texas Secretary of State David Whitley, with considerable help from Paxton, sent an advisory to all 254 counties in the state warning that the state had as many as 95,000 noncitizens on the voter rolls. That claim began to fall apart almost immediately when progressive groups and Democrats pointed out that any number of people on the list could have been naturalized citizens, meaning it would be perfectly legal for them to cast ballots in Texas.
Within a few days, Whitley’s office began calling voter registrars across the state, urging them not to take any action on the list and saying there were problems with the data.
In February, a staffer from the Secretary of State’s Office admitted in front of the Texas House Elections Committee that the office knew there was a "significant possibility" that the list included names of naturalized citizens but released the list anyway.