A federal judge has temporarily barred counties from sending “notices of examination letters” to individuals on a list of potential non-citizens registered to vote supplied by the Secretary of State’s office.

“Perfectly legal naturalized Americans were burdened with what the Court finds to be ham-handed and threatening correspondence from the state which did not politely ask for information but rather exemplifies the power of government to strike fear and anxiety and to intimidate the least powerful among us,” U.S. District Judge Fred Biery wrote in a four-page order. “No native born Americans were subjected to such treatment.”

Local officials may continue to take steps to determine whether individuals on the list are not citizens, “so long as it is done without communicating directly with any particular individual on the list.” However, they may not “remove any person from the current voter registration list” without the Court’s authorization.

Last month, on a Friday afternoon, Secretary of State David Whitley announced his 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 of more Texas elections.” The announcement was immediately cited as evidence of voter fraud in tweets by President Trump, Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton and others. Within days, Whitley’s office began walking back those numbers as it discovered errors such as including voters who registered while obtaining their driver licenses and those who had become citizens since first obtaining a driver license or personal identification card. His office’s handling of the situation was a major topic in his confirmation hearing, and his nomination has been pending in the Senate Nominations Committee. However, it is expected that the committee will vote on his nomination during tomorrow’s (Thursday) meeting.

“The evidence has shown in a hearing before this Court that there is no widespread voter fraud,” Biery wrote in his four-page order. “The challenge is how to ferret the infinitesimal needles out of the haystack of 15 million Texas voters.” Biery said the Secretary of State and “his dedicated employees … made a good faith effort” to proactively find ineligible voters but ended up with “flawed results.”

Biery denied the state’s motion to dismiss and plaintiff’s request for relief regarding Paxton’s press release on the matter.

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