Keep an eye on this.
After the judge approved the settlement, the original list of voters was scrapped. Under the agreement, Texas officials now will only flag names of people who have said they’re not citizens after they have registered to vote.
[Joaquin Gonzalez, a voting rights attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project,] said the settlement requires that he and the other plaintiffs be able to oversee how the state carries out this more limited voter investigation.
“We get numbers of people that have been matched, so that we can tell if there is something that appears to be going wrong in the process,” he said.
But there’s one issue that wasn’t dealt with: Attorney General Ken Paxton’s plans.
When the original voter removal effort was announced, Paxton – the state’s top prosecutor – said he would “spare no effort in assisting” with those cases.
Because of that, plaintiffs named him in their lawsuits. A federal judge removed him, however, because he doesn’t have the power to actually cancel voter registrations.
Perales said it’s unclear what Paxton will do following the settlement.
“Ken Paxton has said contradictory things about this voter purge that came out of the Texas Secretary of State’s office,” she said.
For example, when lawmakers raised questions about the state’s effort earlier this year, Paxton said he didn’t have the time or resources to go through the list and investigate people.
“At the same time, Ken Paxton’s office has claimed that they are still investigating – or doing some kind of investigation – of registered voters who may be non-U.S. citizens,” Perales said.
Paxton’s Office also has been shielding documents related to the voter-removal effort from public view.
In a letter to media organizations and others, the open records division of his office has said, “the information at issue relates to an open criminal investigation conducted by the [Office of the Attorney General’s] Election Fraud Section of the Criminal Prosecutions Division. Further, the OAG states release of the information at issue would interfere with the pending investigation.”
See here for the background. I was wondering about this myself when the settlement terms were announced. It goes without saying that Ken Paxton cannot be trusted. If he has the opportunity to press forward with any of these cases, on whatever grounds, he will. I strongly suspect that all of the attorneys for the plaintiffs will need to keep their evidence files close at hand, ready to whip out for a new motion when and if Paxton strikes. Do not let him try to make wine from the fruit of the poisoned tree.
On a side note, this story also addresses the question of why the state settled instead of appealing, as they usually do:
Gonzalez said he thinks state officials did that partly because the legal challenge was looming over Whitley’s confirmation as secretary of state. He had only recently been appointed when he announced the voter list. Gonzalez said state officials backed off when Senate Democrats vowed to block his confirmation.
“Their opposition to the nomination, we believe, is [part of what] provided the leverage for the state to be willing to settle this in the first case, because the state doesn’t settle voting rights cases like this,” he said.
Maybe. Doesn’t seem to have helped, but I can see the logic. I still feel like there was more to it than this, but I can believe this was a factor.