CLC Takes Texas Secretary of State to Court for Unlawfully Discriminating Against and Intimidating Voters

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Texas State Capitol, Courtesy of Daniel Mayer
Texas State Capitol. Photo courtesy of Daniel Mayer

On January 25, Texas Secretary of State Whitley issued an advisory to county registrars announcing the transmittal of a list of 95,000 people who indicated they were noncitizens at the time they applied for their driver licenses, and who are currently registered to vote. Secretary Whitley suggested that these were illegal noncitizen voters. They are not.

Today Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) asked the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas to stop the unlawful voter purge program announced by Secretary Whitley.

CLC joined a lawsuit brought by LULAC and Texas LULAC, alleging that the program and its promotion are unlawful voter intimidation under the Voting Rights Act.

The filing – an amendment to the original complaint – on behalf of an individual citizen on the list named Julie Hilberg alongside LULAC and Texas LULAC, added additional claims against Whitley. Hilberg, of Atascosa County, became a naturalized citizen in 2015 after moving to Texas from the United Kingdom.

Texas’s new voter purge program for newly naturalized citizens is discriminatory and an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, violating the 1st and 14th Amendments. CLC has also sent a notice letter to Secretary Whitley informing him of the National Voter Registration Act violations created by his new voter purge program.

Despite admissions from Secretary Whitley’s office that the list is “weak” and likely includes naturalized citizens, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has increased the harm of state’s announcement by intimidating naturalized citizens with potential unjustified criminal investigations

According to Homeland Security data, between 50,000 and 65,000 Texas residents become naturalized citizens each year. Over the most recent six years of data – the lifespan of a Texas driver license – 348,552 Texas residents have become newly naturalized citizens. In compiling the list, Whitley relied on records that in some case are as outdated as 23-years old.

A federal court has ruled that a nearly identical program pursued by Florida was unlawful. Florida’s Secretary of State compiled a list of 180,000 registered voters whose driver license applications disclosed that they were non-citizens at the time of the application, and advised county Election Supervisors to provide those registered voters 30 days to prove their citizenship to avoid cancelation of their registration.

We know that democracy works best when all citizens can vote without barriers. Texas designed this unlawful ‘search and purge’ mission to intimidate legitimately registered voters. The court should step in and protect the rights of Texas citizens.

Learn more about the case