Texas SOS Sh*tcanned After Failed Voter Purge, So That's Sad We Guess
David Whitley, the jerkwad who served as Texas's secretary of state for less than six months and tried to purge nearly 100,000 people from the state's voter rolls using seriously screwy data, has resigned. Texas has this weird thing where the secretary of state can have the job as soon as the governor appoints 'em, but if they're not confirmed by the end of the legislative session, they have to step down. Since the confirmation required a 2/3 majority in the state Senate, and all 12 Democrats in the chamber opposed Whitley over the purge nonsense, he had to vamoose. Bye, asshole! Bye!
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Whitley in December 2018, and by late January, Whitley had unveiled his great big scheme to take tons of Latino voters off the rolls: He sent counties a list of 95,000 people his office was just absolutely certain were illegally registered to vote. You see, a comparison of state Department of Public Safety records and voting records showed those folks were legal residents, but not citizens, when they got a driver's license or ID card, so obviously they were voter frauding!
Except it turned out there was one itty-bitty problem: Lots and lots of people on the list signed up to vote -- but only after becoming naturalized, and since there's no requirement to update the DPS, vast numbers of those on the list were the result of outdated records, some of which went as far back as 1996. (A similar attempt to purge voters in Florida identified 180,000 supposedly fraudy voters -- but again, nearly all were naturalized; after lawsuits, the state only found 85 voters illegally registered to vote.)
The Texas Tribune outlines the glorious progress of Whitley's brilliant after-school project, which Texas officials trumpeted as proof of rampant voter frauding:
After tagging the roughly 98,000 voters for review, the secretary of state's office quietly acknowledged almost a quarter of the names were mistakenly included. Local election officials said they were able to identify more than 1,000 other naturalized citizens on their lists before a federal judge halted their reviews. Weeks later, the secretary of state inadvertently sent additional names for review to certain counties because of a technical error a spokesman blamed on a vendor.
State officials eventually agreed to give up on the review as part of a legal settlement to shut down the litigation the state faced. That left taxpayers on the hook for $450,000 in costs and attorney fees for the lawyers of the naturalized citizens and civil rights groups that alleged the review was unconstitutional and violated federal protections for voters of color. A federal judge appeared to have similar misgivings in late February when he put the review on hold over concerns that "perfectly legal naturalized Americans" were targeted in ways those born in the country were not.
Well yeah, but they had weirdo beardo names like Rodriguez and Garcia, so it couldn't hurt to look closer.
Amusingly, neither Whitley's resignation letter nor Gov. Abbott's letter accepting it mentioned that little fiasco, because Great Americans have nothing to apologize for. You might think Whitley might have mentioned it somewhere in there, since he DID find time to look back on all the great things he'd accomplished in the wonderful state of Texas:
I met with county election officials and high school principals to talk about ways to increase youth participation in elections. I visited eight international border crossings with Mexico and presided over a meeting of the Border Trade Advisory Committee to discuss the commerce that we share with our friend to the south and to improve efficiency. And I built a bridge for opposing voices to engage in dialogue to improve election integrity and access.
Oh, you bet there was dialogue about election integrity and access -- $450,000 in attorney's fees worth of it! Abbott praised Whitley's "integrity and character," because you need a lot of integrity to try to steal the vote from tens of thousands of naturalized citizens. Nor did Abbott reference his intrepid attempt to blame the Department of Public Safety for Whitley's failed science fair project, either. This isn't a time for recriminations, it's a time to make voting harder, after all.
The Texas Tribune notes it's not clear whom Abbott will appoint to replace Whitley, although the state constitution says the governor must appoint a new secretary of state "without delay." We hear Kris Kobach is unemployed these days. And isn't the Texas secretary of state's website sad today? It used to feature this terrifying death's-head rictus...
But now it looks like this. So sad.
Texas having no shortage of rightwing assholes, we're sure Gregg Abbott will have his pick of fine Republicans promising they can deliver another decade or so of GOP votes. Legally, of course.
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