Secretary of State’s Office ‘Mistakenly’ Sends Out New Names for Citizenship Checks

Texas is going to be fighting over voting rights forever, it seems.EXPAND
Texas is going to be fighting over voting rights forever, it seems.
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The Texas Secretary of State's Office confirmed late Monday afternoon that multiple Texas counties inadvertently received new names of potential noncitizen voters for possible investigation from the office Monday. A spokesman for the office blamed a vendor for the mix-up.

“Just like we told the counties and the court last week, this list maintenance process is still on pause. The test data that some counties had mistakenly received earlier today was the result of an issue with our vendor, which we immediately addressed with our vendor and the counties,” Sam Taylor said.

The names that went out Monday were compiled as part of a plan by Secretary of State David Whitley to send out monthly lists of potentially ineligible voters to county registrars around the state. His office is continuing to work out that process and wasn't ready to send out any data, Taylor said.

Travis and Williamson County officials told the Texas Tribune that they received new lists before being told to disregard them by the secretary of state's office.

“They said they sent the list in error and that we should disregard it,” Travis County Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant said.

Toni Pippins-Poole, Dallas County's registrar, is out of town and didn't return the Observer's request for an interview.

In late January, Whitley sent out a list of 95,000 registered voters that his office had drawn from Texas Department of Public Safety data to identify as potential noncitizens. As soon as the list went out to Texas' counties, advocacy groups began poking holes in the list, finding that thousands of those on it had become naturalized citizens after getting driver's licenses when they were legal residents.

The judge in one of the suits barred any of Texas' 254 counties from taking any action based on the list sent out by Whitley. A March 4 advisory from the secretary of state instructs county officials to hold off on investigating the citizenship status of any name that might be on a future monthly list without "prior court approval."

Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Whitley as secretary of state in December. Thanks in large part to the debacle that's ensued following his issuing the initial list of potential non-voters, Whitley's confirmation in the Legislature has been a struggle. He passed the Senate Nominations Committee on a party-line vote but needs two-thirds of the Texas Senate to vote for his confirmation. Right now, he doesn't have it, as all 12 Democrats in the 31-seat chamber publicly opposed his nomination. 

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