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The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform has launched an investigation into the Secretary of State’s efforts to have counties verify the citizenship of as many as 95K registered voters flagged as potentially being ineligible to vote.

In a letter to Secretary of State David Whitley, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the committee chair, wrote, “We are disturbed by reports that your office has taken steps to remove thousands of eligible American voters from the rolls in Texas and that you have referred many of these Americans for possible criminal prosecution for exercising their right to vote.”

Cummings and the committee asked for a variety of documents, including communications with the Texas Dept. of Public Safety, the Attorney General’s office and the Governor’s office.

Meanwhile, the federal judge presiding over lawsuits related to the voter purge denied a motion to remove county election officials as defendants from the suit. “The Court is sympathetic to the counties’ concerns,” wrote U.S. District Judge Fred Biery in his order. “The Court would be open to a proposal from the county defendants agreeing not to send notice of examination letters without conclusive evidence that the recipient is indeed a non-citizen registered voter based on an investigation that does not include contact with the individual.” Biery said he would reconsider whether “counties need to continue being a party to this lawsuit” of such a proposal were “forthcoming.”

In a separate order, Biery granted a motion to remove Attorney General Ken Paxton from the suit. “The Attorney General is only being sued for making an alleged intimidating press release,” Biery wrote. “Politicians have been making threatening statements since the early days of the Republic.”

Redistricting: The federal three-judge panel overseeing the state’s redistricting lawsuits has set a May 2 hearing to hear arguments about whether the statewide redistricting plans should be put back under federal preclearance oversight. Arguments will also be heard as to whether or how to redraw the district represented by Rep. Ramon Romero (D-Fort Worth), which was found to be a racial gerrymander.

HD96: Fort Worth attorney Joe Drago converted his judicial campaign committee for a potential challenge of Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington) as a Democrat. Drago unsuccessfully ran for the open 348th Judicial District in 2016, losing to Mike Wallach, 57%-43%. Drago, who was the lone Democrat to seek a state district judgeship in Tarrant Co. that year, raised nearly $45K for that race.

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