Approximately 95K registered voters may be non-citizens, and around 58K of those individuals have voted in at least one election since 1996, according to an analysis conducted by the Secretary of State’s office. It is unclear how many of the 95K are actually ineligible to participate in the state’s elections.
Working with the Texas Dept. of Public Safety, the Secretary of State’s office compared individuals identified as non-citizens in connection with obtaining a Texas driver license or personal identification card to the voter registration record. The analysis relied on records provided by applicants for those credentials that indicated they were not U.S. citizens.
In a statement, Secretary of State David Whitley said his office “is committed to using all available tools under the law to maintain an accurate list of registered voters.” Going forward, his office will obtain data on a monthly basis from DPS and cross-reference it with the statewide voter registration database.
Section 11.002(a)(2), Election Code provides that a qualified voter must be a U.S. citizen. Under Section 64.012, Election Code, it is a second degree felony to vote or attempt to vote in an election in which the person knows he or she is not eligible to vote.
“There is likely a law enforcement interest in the data we are providing,” said Keith Ingram, the director of the Elections Division, in the advisory.
“Nothing is more vital to preserving our Constitution than the integrity of our voting process,” said Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton in a statement. “My office will do everything within its abilities to solidify trust in every election in the state of Texas.”
Since 2005, the AG’s office has prosecuted 130 defendants, including 33 last year, for “numerous voter fraud violations,” according to Paxton’s office.
The Secretary of State’s office has issued an advisory to county voter registrars cautioning them that “all records submitted through this process will need to be treated as WEAK matches, meaning that the county may choose to investigate the voter, pursuant to Section 16.033, Election Code, or take no action on the voter record if the voter registrar determines that there is no reason to believe the voter is ineligible.”
The advisory details the process registrars will need to follow if they choose to cancel the voter registrations of non-citizens.
“Counties are not permitted … to immediately cancel the voter as a result of any non-U.S. Citizen matching information provided” by the Secretary of State’s office. The registrar must first send the registered voter a notice for “proof of citizenship” letter (pdf) and give the recipient 30 days to respond. If there is no response, or if the registered voter confirms he or she is not a U.S. citizen, then the registration will be canceled.
In the advisory, Ingram cautioned county voter registrars that “all records submitted through this process will need to be treated as WEAK matches, meaning that the county may choose to investigate the voter, pursuant to Section 16.033, Election Code, or take no action on the voter record if the voter registrar determines that there is no reason to believe the voter is ineligible.”
In August, the conservative Direct Action Texas claimed 280K non-citizen legal residents were registered to vote and as many as 4M other voter registrations “do not match” DPS records. On the same day, dozens of movement conservative and Tea Party groups signed onto a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott (R) stating they were “disgusted that nothing is being done to stop” non-citizens from voting.
“The grassroots of Texas deserve a round of applause in their efforts calling on public officials to investigate and prosecute these violations,” said Direct Action Texas’s Daniel Greer in a post to the group’s website. Greer wrote that the Secretary of State’s analysis “confirm[s] what we’ve alleged since before the 2018 election: tens of thousands of non-citizens are registered and voting in Texas elections.”
Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas), chair of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus, said in a statement that he wants to see the evidence before drawing conclusions. “Because we have consistently seen Texas politicians conjure the specter of voter fraud as a pretext to suppress legitimate votes, we are naturally skeptical,” Anchia said.
The League of Women Voters of Texas said the Secretary of State’s findings are a sign that “we need to modernize our voter registration system.” In a statement, Grace Chimene, president of the organization, said other states are “far ahead” of Texas in terms of voter roll accuracy, in part because they use online registration and verification.
“LWVTX calls on the Texas Legislature to address this issue by modernizing the voter registration system,” Chimene said. “There are multiple bills already introduced that can improve its integrity. Tying use of a continually clean and accurate DPS database of citizens/non-citizens is very doable.”
Heading into the 2018 general election, nearly 15.8M Texans were registered to vote. Following the voter list purges that occur after even-year general elections, the number of registered voters fell to 15.6M in January. The number of suspected non-citizen voter registrations equals about 0.6% of all registered voters.
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