Photo: World Travel and Tourism Council, Creative Commons License 2.0

Texas's great big hunt to manufacture some outrage over "legal aliens illegally registered to vote" started falling apart almost as soon as it was announced, since it was based on bad assumptions and bad use of data. Secretary of State David Whitley breathlessly announced in January his office had compiled a list of 98,000 registered voters listed as non-citizens by the Department of Public Safety (DPS), which runs the driver's license office. Worse, since 1996, some 58,000 of 'em had voted!!! Wingnut media and Donald Trump took to wailing about voter fraud even as nit-pickers pointed out the data was crap, because the DPS only had records on people who said they weren't citizens when they applied for a driver's license or photo ID. Tons of people on the list actually been naturalized citizens later, and were completely legal to vote. In fact, as three federal lawsuits against the fake list of suspicious voters have proceeded, DPS officials have said 25,000 people on the list had already proven they were citizens when Whitley's office released it. Long story short, it's a massive clusterfuck that's proving to be a huge embarrassment to both Whitley and to Gov. Greg Abbott, who appointed Whitley to the post in December.

And now that Whitley is facing a very difficult confirmation fight in the state Senate (yeah, he's been in the job with no "acting" title; we dunno, it's fucking Texas), Abbott has finally taken a brave stance on who's responsible for the embarrassing fucktangle: Not Whitley, who did the shitty "analysis," but DPS chief Steve McCraw, for generating the data in the first place. This is a bit of a problem since, as the invaluable Texas Tribune reports, DPS made clear to the SecState's office the data was flawed from the get-go.

Still, Abbot makes a compelling case, if by "compelling" you mean he's good at pointing anywhere but his shit-covered appointee and yelling "SOMETHING STINKS!"

During a radio interview last week, Abbott slammed McCraw's department for not "adequately" communicating to the secretary of state that the data at heart of the controversial voter review was "admittedly flawed." And he specifically passed the blame onto McCraw for "faulty information" that "hamstrung" the state's review efforts.

Then on Monday, Abbott referred to McCraw's alleged mistakes as "unacceptable," describing the review as a mishandled "law enforcement issue."

Isn't that convenient? McCraw has been director of the DPS, but since Abbott became governor in 2015, has supported Abbott's priorities, particularly Gittin' Tuff on border security. On the other hand, he's already been in government for a while and doesn't need to worry about getting confirmed, so under the bus he goes; Abbott has been careful to minimize Whitley's role in the flubbed snipe hunt for illegal voters, no matter how much information emerges about how badly Whitley's office bungled in making a list of scary foreigns who turned out to be Americans.

"I think the governor is either misinformed or he's trying to save his nominee despite what the facts are," said Chad Dunn, one of the civil rights lawyers suing the state over the constitutionality of the review effort. "I don't think there's any evidence to support the governor's comments."

Even before Whitley was appointed Secretary of State, the office had been busy comparing voter rolls to DPS data to find people who said they weren't US citizens at the time they went to get a license or ID. And early on, according to testimony in one of the lawsuits, DPS had warned the SecState its data couldn't be expected to be up to date, because tracking Texans' citizenship status beyond the initial license/ID application is not DPS's job. DPS official Gayatri Vasan testified about how her office helped compile data for the secretary of state's office and disclaimered the living fuck out of it:

"My boss told them that DPS is not an authorizing agency to confirm citizenship. We do collect citizenship information at the time of the transaction, but that may not be current because when you come in for the driver's license, you get a driver's license for six years, right? We may not have the current citizenship information," Vasan said during a Feb. 19 court hearing that stretched past six hours. "And my boss … suggested they should go directly to [the U.S. Department of Homeland Security] if they want current citizenship information."'

In addition to those warnings, however, there were also "miscommunications" that led the SecState's office to discount information from the roughly 25,000 Texans who actually gave DPS documentation of their having become citizens, like their naturalization papers or a shiny new US passport. Oh, OOPSIES!

But "miscommunication" between DPS and the secretary of state's office led state election officials to disregard that field in the data based on the erroneous understanding that their citizenship was self-reported and unreliable, according to testimony from Keith Ingram, chief of the secretary of state's elections division. The Tribune has reviewed emails between the two departments from 2018 that confirm Ingram's account.

The Texas Tribune story isn't definitive on where that "miscommunication" arose; possibly both offices screwed up. Even so, Ingram said, "We have since met with DPS and learned that that's not the case; that they do, in fact, prove those things."

McCraw even tried to explain to state lawmakers why the data was flawed, about two weeks into the unfolding fuck-tussle, although he went out of his way to avoid being blamey when he spoke to the Tribune:

McCraw told the Tribune his department had included that citizenship flag in the data it sent to the secretary of state, chalking up the error to "confusion in how the data was interpreted" by "lower-level people acting in good faith."

"I think it's important to note that, unfortunately, it's confusing to someone who is not an expert in the data and analytics and doesn't understand what it is," McCraw said at the time. "It can be easily confused and misconstrued. That's all I can say."

Federal District Judge Fred Biery, who oversees one of the lawsuits, has issued an order blocking the state from purging any voters based on the shitty list, particularly since many on the list shouldn't have been on it in the first place, and many more are likely to also turn out to be naturalized citizens.

He noted the state's effort to review the rolls was "inherently paved with flawed results" that resulted in the burdening of "perfectly legal naturalized Americans" who received "ham-handed and threatening" letters from the state asking them to prove their citizenship within 30 days to avoid being kicked off the rolls.

"No native born Americans were subjected to such treatment," Biery wrote.

Just to add to the complete assholery on the state's part, state officials testifying as part of the lawsuits have blamed county elections officials for acting too quickly to send letters demanding voters prove their eligibility to vote. Yes, that's after the secretary of state's office released the list and circulated instructions on how to verify the eligibility of the suspected vote frauders on it.

Sad, sad Greg Abbott. Even though he's doing his best to pin the blame on McCraw, Whitley's nomination is in big trouble: All 12 Democrats in the Texas Senate have announced they plan to vote against confirming him. Whitley would need a vote of two-thirds of the 31-member Senate to keep his job, so if the Dems stick together (and show up for the vote -- maybe Rs will schedule it during a Democrat holiday like We Love Karl Marx Day), the nomination is sunk.

Sort of makes you wonder why Abbott would blame the DPS instead of Democrats for the whole mess anyway. If only they'd agree to only letting white people vote, none of this would have been necessary. Ah well -- Republicans nationwide are already convinced Texas had a million illegal voters, so maybe that makes the whole debacle worthwhile.

[Texas Tribune / Photo: World Travel and Tourism Council, Creative Commons License 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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