Texas’ top election official announced today that 58,000 people identified in a state database as noncitizens have voted in Texas elections, confirming a shocking reality that election integrity advocates have known for some time.
In an alarming statement, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley revealed:
“For the past year, the Texas Secretary of State’s office has worked closely with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to evaluate information regarding persons identified to not be citizens of the United States. This voter registration list maintenance activity is being conducted in accordance with federal and state law to ensure that only qualified voters – who must first and foremost be U.S. citizens – are registered to vote in Texas elections.
“Through this evaluation, the Texas Secretary of State’s office discovered that a total of approximately 95,000 individuals identified by DPS as non-U.S. citizens have a matching voter registration record in Texas, approximately 58,000 of whom have voted in one or more Texas elections.”
The voting records evaluated go back to 1996, a year after the National Voter Registration Act (also known as the “Motor Voter” law) went into effect requiring states to offer voter registration by mail-in application and as part of driver’s license applications.
Whitley said his office has been working with DPS since early March 2018 “to review and refine the data able to be provided by DPS for use in this list maintenance process. The goal was to produce actionable information voter registrars could use to assist in their list maintenance responsibilities.”
“Integrity and efficiency of elections in Texas require accuracy of our state’s voter rolls, and my office is committed to using all available tools under the law to maintain an accurate list of registered voters,” Whitley said.
Under current state law, no one verifies the citizenship of applicants registering to vote; they simply check a box on the registration form stating they are a U.S. citizen.
DPS does verify citizenship or lawful presence before issuing documentation, and Texas law allows lawfully present noncitizens to obtain driver’s licenses. Thus, the list of lawfully present noncitizens with DPS-issued ID can be cross-checked with voter lists.
“Going forward, the Texas Secretary of State’s office will use information it obtains from DPS on a monthly basis to cross-reference with Texas’ statewide voter registration database and match potential non-U.S. citizens who have registered to vote,” Whitley said. “Once a voter registration is identified as a match, the Texas Secretary of State’s office will notify the county in which the person is registered so that the county voter registrar can take action.”
Elections Director Keith Ingram sent an advisory to all county voter registration officials explaining the new process. Current state law does not require county registrars to act on the DPS noncitizen data matches.
Officials have acknowledged for some time that non-citizens registering and voting in Texas elections is a “significant problem.” In February of last year, state and local officials testified before a Texas Senate panel that under the state’s current system, non-citizens can easily register to vote without being detected. Illegally voting in a Texas election is a second-degree felony.
The Secretary of State’s office has forwarded its findings to the Office of the Attorney General for further investigation and possible prosecution.
“Every single instance of illegal voting threatens democracy in our state and deprives individual Texans of their voice,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement. “We’re honored to have partnered with the Texas Secretary of State’s office in the past on voter initiatives and we will spare no effort in assisting with these troubling cases. My Election Fraud Unit stands ready to investigate and prosecute crimes against the democratic process when needed.”
“I applaud Secretary of State Whitley for his proactive work in safeguarding our elections,” Paxton added.
Texans have been pressuring the Attorney General, Secretary of State, and Gov. Greg Abbott to take action on this issue for months. At a press conference last August, watchdog group Direct Action Texas said more than 280,000 noncitizens were registered to vote in Texas and the status of another four million registered voters was in question. DAT and a coalition of conservative leaders issued a letter asking Abbott to take “immediate action” requiring the Secretary of State to “check DPS citizenship information when completing voter registrations.”
Today’s announcement comes too late to affect last November’s crucial federal and state elections, but the new process put in place by the Secretary of State is a move in the right direction toward increasing the integrity of Texas elections.