Texas has a “significant problem” with non-citizens illegally voting in our elections, according to the office of Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Just-released information from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) confirms that non-citizens are registering to vote and voting in Texas elections. Worse, procedures for removing ineligible voters from voter rolls aren’t being followed correctly “or even at all” in some Texas counties.

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

In a letter to State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R–Mineola), who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Election Integrity, the OAG said “the threat to election integrity in Texas is real, and the need to provide additional safeguards is increasing.”

Last year’s successful prosecution of Mexican national Rosa Ortega, who illegally voted in Texas for over 10 years, “highlighted the lack of safeguards in the system to detect ineligible voters, like non-citizens,” the OAG wrote to Hughes.

In response, the OAG conducted a “brief investigative survey” of four counties’ voter registration records. They found that in just the past two years, 165 unlawfully registered non-citizen voters were removed from those counties’ voter rolls – but only after they self-identified as non-citizens in the process of recusing themselves from jury duty:

“More concerning, this group of 165 non-citizens had cast 100 illegal votes in Texas elections prior to identifying themselves as non-citizens at jury duty and being removed from the voter rolls.

The OAG is unable to determine the scope of noncitizen voting across Texas, from the non-citizen jury duty numbers alone, but it appears to be a significant problem, nonetheless. The OAG has also found 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. Investigations into the scope of ineligible voting across the State are ongoing.”

State officials didn’t name the four counties whose voting records they surveyed, but two of Texas’ largest counties – Bexar and Harris – are facing lawsuits in federal court for hiding records of non-citizens registering and voting.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation, a law firm dedicated exclusively to election integrity, put both counties on notice that they are violating federal law by refusing access to public voter roll maintenance records. 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 – including records of non-citizens who illegally registered and were later identified and removed.

PILF President and General Counsel J. Christian Adams said there’s no question that non-citizens are registering to vote in Harris County. “Evidence and testimony about the matter have been provided to the Texas Legislature and U.S. Supreme Court. This isn’t a question about the existence of alien voting—but the scale.”

Under NVRA rules, county officials have 90 days from the violation date to allow PILF access to the records or face legal action. Bexar officials have until March 20 to come clean; Harris has until April 18 to open their books or be sued.

PILF has successfully sued other counties in Texas and elsewhere for failing to comply with the NVRA, and has discovered non-citizens registering and voting in multiple states including VirginiaPennsylvania, and New Jersey.

Starr County, in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, is already embroiled in a legal fight with PILF over dirty voter rolls. The firm is representing the American Civil Rights Union in a federal lawsuit against the county’s elections office for failing to maintain accurate voter lists, including failing to remove non-citizens.

Starr County officials have acknowledged that non-citizens are registering to vote there. “We can confirm for sure that there have been persons, that there are persons, who are registered to vote who are non-U.S. citizens,” Starr County District Attorney Omar Escobar said last month.

That revelation came as part of an ongoing investigation of voter fraud in the March primary elections that has already resulted in two arrests. The first suspect is a paid vote harvester, or politiquera, charged with forging multiple mail ballot applications. The second is charged with submitting a mail ballot application for a deceased voter.

Both face felony charges. A new law enacted last year to crack down on mail ballot voter fraud made it a state jail felony to provide false information on a ballot application or submit an application without a voter’s permission.

Paxton’s office offered to help Escobar in Starr County’s fight against voter fraud, including illegal voting by non-citizens.
“We stand ready to assist you in whatever way we are able in your efforts to eliminate fraudulent voting and vote harvesting activity,” the OAG’s Brantley Starr wrote to Escobar. “I believe a key solution rests in local elected prosecutors like yourself committing to address fraud in their communities.”

The OAG also asked Hughes’ committee to consider several legislative solutions for safeguarding election integrity by keeping non-citizens off county voter rolls and out of Texas elections.

“We will do everything within our abilities and resources to solidify trust in the voting process,” Paxton said.

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.