How many non-citizens are registered to vote and voting in Texas’ largest county? That’s what a federal lawsuit filed today is primed to reveal.

Public Interest Legal Foundation, a law firm dedicated to election integrity, is suing Harris County’s Voter Registrar Ann Harris Bennett for failing to disclose non-citizen voter registration records as required under federal law.

The National Voter Registration Act, also known as the “Motor Voter” law, requires local election officials to maintain accurate voter registration lists and allow public inspection of all records relating to list maintenance programs.

Harris County received notice in January that it was violating the law by denying access to public voter list maintenance records.

County officials refused PILF’s request pursuant to the NVRA to inspect records of non-citizens who registered to vote and then were later removed from the voter rolls after the county discovered they weren’t citizens.

It’s a violation of both federal and state law for non-citizens to register to vote.

“Harris County has previously admitted a problem with non-citizen registration and voting,” PILF President and General Counsel J. Christian Adams said:

“Election officials should be transparent, and in fact are required by federal law to be transparent. Our requests to inspect records will help educate lawmakers and the public alike on how non-citizens are gaining entry into the voting system; how long they remain; how they vote; and what we can do to fix the issue.


“The question is not if—but how many non-citizens are participating? Harris County cannot expect to get away with avoiding its federal transparency responsibilities.”

PILF has successfully sued counties in Texas and other states for failing to comply with the NVRA, and is currently litigating a case against Starr County, Texas, where officials admit non-citizens have registered and voted. The Indiana-based foundation has also discovered non-citizens registering and voting in multiple states including Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

At a hearing last month on election integrity, state and local officials testified that non-citizens are registering and voting in Texas elections. Worse, prosecutors from the Texas Attorney General’s office reported that “the process for removing ineligible voters who self-report as non-citizens at jury duty is not being followed correctly, or even at all, in various counties.” Yet no state agency has oversight authority over county registrars to ensure they comply with the law – that’s left to “the general public” and groups like PILF, the head of the Texas Secretary of State’s Elections Division testified.

Prosecutors declined to identify the non-compliant counties, but past Harris County voter registration officials testified in prior legislative hearings that “thousands” of non-citizens were discovered in the county’s voter registration system annually and turned over to the District Attorney.

“It’s no secret that this is a problem in Harris County,” PILF’s Communications & Research Director Logan Churchwell told Texas Scorecard. “Let’s find out what causes it and why – in full detail. Stop hiding – open the books.”

Harris County has more than 2.2 million registered voters. It’s taking a federal lawsuit to discover how many of those are non-citizens illegally participating in Texas elections. The only way to find out is to look.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.