In a move to combat illegal voting, State Sen. Charles Perry (R–Lubbock) has filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session that will enable state prosecutors to investigate and hold accountable noncitizens who vote in Texas elections.
Perry said in a statement to Texas Scorecard explaining Senate Bill 205:
“Protecting the integrity of our elections should be paramount, but we cannot do that when voter fraud investigation itself is outlawed. Despite the state removing thousands of noncitizens from the voter rolls, there are still circumstances in which it is illegal to check if they voted. This is unacceptable. My bill will remove these barriers and send these names to the Attorney General’s office for further review.”
Because noncitizens may receive driver licenses and citizenship status isn’t verified before adding applicants to the voter rolls, noncitizens who register to vote will be added to the list for jury duty since both licensed drivers and registered voters are included on the jury wheel.
While state law mandates the Department of Public Safety to only submit driver license data from eligible drivers to be used for jury summons, a report just released by the State Auditor’s Office found that the DPS “lacks sufficient controls over its processes for issuing driver licenses and identification cards to ensure that it collects, retains, and verifies all required information to prevent the issuance of driver licenses and identification cards to ineligible applicants.”
It isn’t until courts vet prospective jurors who respond to a summons that the citizenship status of some registered voters is determined.
Current law requires the clerk of every state court to prepare a list of all persons dismissed from jury duty due to citizenship status and to submit the list to the secretary of state, the county voter registrar, and the local prosecutor.
The current law also prevents the state from using the lists for any other purpose, making it a Class C misdemeanor for another entity to use the lists in a way outside the usage expressly allowed in the statute.
SB 205 would amend the current law to mandate the lists be forwarded to the Texas Attorney General’s office, where the lists will be subject to a required quarterly review. By lifting the usage limitation, state prosecutors would be enabled to use the lists to determine if any noncitizen voted in prior elections and to detect any other criminal offenses.
While this legislation will be crucial in the detection of prior illegal voting, the issue highlights a major weakness in our state’s proactive effort to secure future elections against unlawful participation by ineligible voters.