AUSTIN (KXAN) — An evaluation by the Texas Secretary of State’s office discovered that about 95,000 people identified by the Texas Department of Public Safety as non-U.S. citizens have a matching voting registration record. The state claims 58,000 of those people voted in one or more state elections over 22 years.
For perspective, during the 2018 Gubernatorial election, more than 15.7 million people were registered to vote, and more than 8.3 million actually voted.
In an advisory released Friday, the Texas Secretary of State, David Whitley, announced the findings from its voter registration maintenance activities.
The maintenance activity was done 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, per the Secretary of State.
The Texas Secretary of State cannot investigate or prosecute illegal activity so he turned the information over to the Texas Attorney General’s Office. Voting without eligibility is a second-degree felony in Texas.
“My Election Fraud Unit stands ready to investigate and prosecute crimes against the democratic process when needed,” wrote Attorney General Ken Paxton in a statement.
Civil rights groups and Mexican-American lawmakers were instantly suspicious of the numbers released.
“We need to see the evidence first because, typically, when elections go bad for the party in power, politicans will blame their electoral shortcomings on ‘voter fraud’,” Dallas State Representative and Chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, Rafael Anchia, said after the news.
“If these allegations are true, it is a major failure on the part of the Governor, the Secretary of State, and the Attorney General’s office,” said Rep. Anchia, “Because we have consistently seen Texas politicains conjure the specter of voter fraud as pretext to suppress legitimate votes, we are naturall skepitcal.”
The Texas Civil Rights Project in a statement brought up the prospect that the list might be wrong, or at least outdated, “with about 50,000 Texas residents becoming naturalized citizens each year.”
In the future, the secretary’s office will use information from DPS on a monthly basis to cross-reference voters with Texas’ statewide voter registration database and match potential non-U.S. citizens who have registered to vote. When there is a match, the Texas Secretary of State’s office will notify the county.
What happens next?
Travis County Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant said at this time, we don’t know how many of those 95,000 non-U.S. citizens live in our area. He’s expecting to find out from the Secretary of State’s Office next week.
Any counties that are affected by the report will be told to send a Notice of Examination to those non-citizens, letting them know their status is being examined.
They will then have 30 days to provide proof of citizenship. If they don’t respond or cannot provide any proof of citizenship, they will be removed from the voter rolls.
Texas voters can also check their status using the secretary’s office’s Am I Registered? tool.
Voter registration process
When you register to vote in Texas, the first question you’re asked is “Are you a U.S. citizen?”
If you respond yes, Elfant said, “We receive the paper voter registration cards. Manually enter it into the database. We send that off to Secretary of State for their verification, and they will either send back the records that are complete and accurate and confirmed, and we’ll put them on the voter rolls [or] they’ll send us records where there are questions.
He said the state verifies the person’s citizenship status.
Hays County Elections Administrator Jennifer Anderson said, “We don’t prove citizenship here in our office. That’s done at the state level.”
If the state raises any issues, the local registrars are then responsible for notifying the person and asking for proof.
Elfant said his staff is trained to properly review those documents.