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In his confirmation hearing today (Thursday), Secretary of State David Whitley defended his office’s decision to question the citizenship of 95K registered voters knowing the data was likely flawed. Counties were supplied lists of registered voters flagged using Dept. of Public Safety data, but those lists did not account for individuals who had become citizens since first obtaining a driver license or personal identification card from DPS. The lists also erroneously included citizens who had registered to vote at a DPS office when obtaining their license or PIC.

Whitley faced the toughest questions from the Nominations Committee’s three Democrats. “There seems to be a lack of due diligence,” said Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston), adding that she felt Whitley either did not check his work or “intentionally allowed information that was inaccurate to go out.”

Whitley said the investigation is a process, and he was required by law to alert law enforcement and county registrars that non-citizens had potentially registered to vote. “My office has no investigative authority,” Whitley said. “That’s why it is important to get the data to the counties to do that investigation.”

Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) said he believed Whitley’s goal was to create an appearance of widespread illegal voting. Whitley said his only goal was to ensure the accurate voter rolls.

Republican members also expressed some disappointment with Whitley’s handling of the investigation. “There were some regrettable statements on your press release,” said Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham). “Some of that should’ve been tempered.”

The committee is expected to vote on Whitley’s nomination at its February 14 meeting.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) appointed Whitley, his then-deputy chief of staff and appointments director, in December to succeed Rolando Pablos.

Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle’s editorial board recommended the Legislature reject Whitley’s appointment.

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