Texas must end the threat to unregister thousands of citizen voters
Late last week the Texas Secretary of State went through 22 years of voting records to gin up a story that non-citizens may have voted, and today they are notifying local officials that many of the names on the list are actually citizens who just so happened to register to vote at the DMV and do not belong on the list.
What a mess. The Secretary of State used flawed data, issued a threat, and now thousands of citizens could lose their voter registration because they fail to prove what they’ve already proven.
We all want fair and legal elections, but we cannot let people lose their right to vote because an inept government office doesn’t know how to do an Excel merge.
How did we get here? Well, it’s politics of course.
Claims like these are typically trumped up because there is an effort to justify scrubbing the voter rolls, or because it creates the kind of news that generates legislation to limit voter registration.
But this whole scenario could have been prevented if Texas had online voter registration.
Online voter registration could have provided some guidance in this situation, as it could have provided a system that matches voter records with records from the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Texas is one of only 12 states that does not have online voter registration (even Oklahoma has it).
We visited KVUE news in Austin this week to talk about how this story doesn't hold up, and why we should be wary of it because there are so many holes in this story. The Texas Tribune did a pretty good job outlining the problems with this story last week. Here is our summary:
- Republicans used data from the DPS to see if people had filed any paperwork indicating that they are not citizens. They admitted that it was old data, but they didn't say which data they were using.
- They attempted to match those names to a voter file, but specifically stated that these were "WEAK" matches (that capitalization of WEAK is how the Secretary of State stylized it). As an aside, let's consider why these are WEAK matches. I've done a search for my own name in Texas voter file, and "Ed Espinoza" shows up seven times in Travis County, 10 times in Harris County, and 124 times statewide. Without an accurate match, you have no idea if this is even an issue. Voters have already proved their identity in the registration process, the burden of getting state records straight should be on the state.
- We don’t know what DPS data was used, but we do know that undocumented immigrants cannot get a Texas Driver's License. Thus the people on these lists were likely legal residents who may have been naturalized.
- Texas is the fastest growing state in the nation, and many of these legal residents have likely become naturalized and voted. A total of 58,000 voters over 22 years amounts to an average of 2,636 voters per year. And it's plausible that many of those people did vote, as the rate of voter participation by naturalized citizens from Latino and Asian communities is higher than that of natural-born citizens from the same communities.
Here are two tweets that sum this up nicely:
I am likely on their list. I got my drivers license before I became a citizen. I voted for first time in October 2018 - after my swearing in of course.
— Rebecca Acuna (@racunatx) January 26, 2019
95,000 potential non-citizens on voter rolls in Texas over 22 years in a state of nearly 30 million people - and for all of those 22 years the Republican party dominated elections, except for the last one. I guess we need to look at this now #TxLege
— Scott Braddock (@scottbraddock) January 28, 2019
The bottom line is that this whole thing is a knee-jerk reaction by the new Secretary of State using bad data.
Sign our petition and send a message to Texas Senators: Vote NO on the confirmation of David Whitley for the highest office of election integrity.