CLC and Partners Settle with Texas to End Targeting of Naturalized Citizen Voters

Issues

AUSTIN, TX – Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) reached a final settlement agreement with the state of Texas on behalf of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and Julie Hilberg, ending Secretary of State David Whitley’s flawed voter purge program, which targeted naturalized citizens and threatened the voting rights of tens of thousands of Texans. The Secretary of State has agreed to abandon his election advisory that led to false allegations – echoed by Attorney General Ken Paxton, Governor Greg Abbott, and others – of widespread noncitizen voter fraud. The list generated by Secretary Whitley was largely comprised of Texans like Julie Hilberg, a naturalized citizen that registered to vote after becoming a citizen in 2015.

“Naturalized American citizens in Texas should not have to worry about their state threatening to purge them from the voting rolls,” said Paul Smith, vice president of litigation and strategy at CLC. “Today’s legally binding agreement means Texas can no longer target naturalized U.S. citizens for potential criminal investigation and removal from the voting lists based on stale data.”

“This is a great day for Texas voters,” said Julie Hilberg, plaintiff in Texas LULAC v. Whitley from Poteet, Texas. “This settlement means we can now feel reassured that we will not be subject to discrimination as a result of voter roll purges. I’d like to thank everyone who worked so tirelessly to make this happen.”

The settlement agreement outlines a list of procedures that Secretary Whitley must follow before his office initiates any program to cancel the voter registration of any individual based on citizenship data provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). As part of the agreement, the state will no longer be permitted to use stale DPS data to question the citizenship of new Americans. Instead, it may only rely upon DPS data that identifies individuals who registered to vote and then only later presented evidence of non-U.S. citizenship to DPS. 

Despite today’s victory, there is a bill moving through the state legislature that threatens to undermine the agreement reached today. SB 903 opens the door for Whitley to reinstate his flawed purge program under the auspices of complying with state law. As this lawsuit demonstrates, however, any retrenchment from the procedures outlined in today’s agreement are likely to have the same constitutional deficiencies as the original flawed program, and would only open Texas up to further liability.