Paxton not prepared to investigate alleged noncitizen voter list
Attorney General Ken Paxton now says he is not prepared to investigate the 58,000 potential noncitizen voters that the secretary of state has flagged.
In a letter to a key state senator, Paxton said he does not have enough staff to divert from other tasks to investigate each voter. The Texas secretary of state, David Whitley, sent his office the list two weeks ago, when it notified counties of a total of 95,000 suspected noncitizens registered to vote, 58,000 of whom have cast a ballot in an election. It is a felony for a noncitizen to vote in Texas.
Paxton said he will wait to see what county voter registrars discover as they analyze the data. Already, county elections officials have discovered that more than 20,000 voters on the state’s purge list are in fact citizens and eligible to vote.
“Simply put, even utilizing every resource we have, it would not be possible to investigate tens of thousands of SOS matters before the voter registrars should be able to complete their list maintenance activity,” Paxton said in a letter to Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway.
Buckingham is the chair of the Senate Nominations Committee, which is weighing whether to confirm Whitley as secretary of state. Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Whitley in December, but he
must still be confirmed by the Texas Senate to retain the job.
Whitley’s confirmation process began Thursday when senators peppered him with questions about the list of potential noncitizen voters his office had sent out and about all the names county officials have found were wrongly on the list.
“I will readily level with you that we can always improve the process,” Whitley told the senators. “But the data is what the data is. And we were confident that that was the best data that we could get from DPS.”
On Jan. 25, Whitley put out a news release saying the 95,000 voters identified by his office had previously supplied information to the Department of Public Safety that indicated they were not citizens. At that time, Paxton announced he “stood ready” to open a criminal investigation.
While noncitizens can legally get a driver’s license, they are ineligible to vote. Whitley’s office at the time said it was forwarding the names of the 58,000 people on the list who had previously voted to the state’s attorney general.
On Thursday, senators asked Whitley to call on Paxton to hold off on investigating people until the lists have been better vetted by county officials to assure legal citizens aren’t being drawn into an investigation unnecessarily.
In his letter to Buckingham, Paxton said the secretary of state’s office has asked him to refrain from starting those investigations.
The effort to pinpoint voters who are not U.S. citizens has brought praise from Republicans as high up as President Donald Trump, who have called it part of the fight against voter fraud. But it also has resulted in lawsuits from civil rights groups who say the analysis Whitley’s office conducted is riddled with errors and discriminates against immigrants. They say the purge is calculated to dissuade them from voting.
Whitley’s office has said it can’t comment on pending litigation.