Texas Jackwad Lied About 'Illegal' Voters, Part 43
A couple weeks back (that's a century in Trump Hellworld Time), the Texas Secretary of State's office made a lot of news when it announced it had compiled a list of nearly 100,000 registered voters who might not be be citizens! Even scarier, the SoS said that between 1996 and 2018, some 58,000 of those maybe non-citizens had voted in at least one election!!!! This of course was bullshit, because what Secretary of State David Whitley had sent to counties -- and to the state attorney general -- to investigate was really a list of people who said they were legal aliens when they applied for a driver's license, and then at some later point registered to vote. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) doesn't actually keep records of citizenship status, and as counties started looking at the lists, they started finding LOTS of people who'd been naturalized, and then registered to vote. Golly, what a surprise! Just as voting rights groups predicted, the whole mess looked far more like an effort to remove naturalized citizens from the voting rolls in the wake of high Democratic turnout in the midterms.
This week, Whitley, who was appointed to his post by Gov. Greg Abbott in December, is up for confirmation by the state Senate, and Democrats on the Committee on Nominations gave him no end of hell yesterday for his little adventure in trying to rile up panic over "voter fraud." Dems were especially critical of Whitey's decision to send the list to the state AG for possible prosecutions, even though he knew the list probably included naturalized citizens. His answers to the committee didn't inspire a hell of a lot of confidence, either:
Whitley vacillated between telling lawmakers he referred the list of voters to the attorney general's office because his office had no power to investigate them for illegal voting and describing the citizenship review efforts as an ongoing process based on a list that still needed to be reviewed by local officials. But he made clear that his office knew from the start that the data could be faulty.
In fact, his office had cautioned counties that there could be errors on the list. But he sent the county-by-county lists out anyway, advising county voting officials to send a letter to everyone on the list, then prune the voter rolls of anyone who didn't reply in 30 days. That's a time-honored voter-suppression tactic called "purge by postcard" -- it may not identify ineligible voters so much as it takes the vote away from people who don't answer what looks like junk mail.
Whitley didn't seem too worried about whether his action would result in the purging of legal voters, because after all, that's the point, innit?
Despite acknowledging his office knew the list could contain mistakes, Whitley repeatedly brushed off Democrats' questions about the list erroneously including tens of thousands of U.S. citizens.
"I read that in the paper," Whitley said, before noting that DPS had shared with his office "the best data that they had on who in their database was not a citizen."
Of course, if you want to get all technical about it, Texas driver licenses and photo ID cards are good for several years, and there's no requirement for people to notify DPS if they become citizens. "Up to date" for the DPS can mean "years out of date" when it comes to citizenship. And of course, the week after that great big panic about a million voter frauds, Whitley's office started calling counties to let them know that, oops, some people on the list were citizens after all. Who knows how many? You guys in the counties will have to check.
As has been pointed out again and again since Whitley's announcement, driver's license records are a really crappy way to find ineligible voters. A similar effort in Florida listed an even higher scary number: 180,000 maybe-illegal voters!!!! Florida purged some 2,600 eligible voters from the voting rolls, got sued in federal court, and eventually the state found all of 85 noncitizens on the rolls, most of whom had been registered through mistakes, not chicanery. Needless to say, it's easy to find Voter Fraud Hawks who insist disenfranchising 2,600 people (and stirring up fears about hundreds of thousands of illegal voters!) was all worth it, because look, 85 noncitizens on the rolls. In a state with about 13 million voters.
But actually identifying ineligible voters is hardly the point. The real utility of the move was to stir up panic. Attorney General Ken Paxton went all-caps weaselshit over the obvious criming!
Goodness, the AG wouldn't make such accusations before the facts were in, would he? And so what if this clusterfuck actually finds only a few actual improper voters? The "58,000 illegal votes!" line has already become permanently fixed in the rightwing mind, and was actually cited this week by Georgia Republican Jody Hice in a congressional hearing on voting rights, as if it were a real thing.
Whitley's already facing a bunch of lawsuits, even before being confirmed to his job:
Whitley is already a named defendant in three lawsuits Texas now faces over its citizenship review efforts. Naturalized citizens, civil rights groups and voting rights advocates have asked federal courts in San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Galveston to block the state from flagging voters for citizenship review, which they allege is unconstitutional and violates federal safeguards for voters of color because it imposes additional burdens to register to vote on naturalized citizens.
Heck, that's the sort of achievement you might expect from a Trump appointee! Man's certainly reached the big time.
And he really knows how to win friends in the Lege, too! When state Sen. Royce West, a Democrat from Dallas, asked him to define "voter suppression," Whitley knew exactly what to say!
"I think it's irrelevant," Whitley responded.
"You're the secretary of state, sir," West shot back. "It is relevant to me if I'm going to vote for your confirmation."
As everyone knows, "voter suppression" is just what illegal Democrats call perfectly legitimate efforts to make sure only the right people vote, so of course it's irrelevant. The real point is what are we gonna do about all those illegals voting????
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