Texas Gov. Greg Abbott downplayed concerns Thursday about the voter citizenship review initiated last week by his secretary of state, even though it has since become clear that the state’s list of flagged voters swept up thousands of U.S. citizens who should not have been scrutinized.
“This is what you would categorize as a process, a work [in progress],” Abbott said. “They’ll get it right, but I do want to be emphatic: It is essential that the secretary of state, [the Department of Public Safety], counties, anybody with any authority over this whatsoever work collaboratively and swiftly together to make sure our voter rolls are accurate, to ensure integrity in the election process.”
Last Friday, Abbott’s newly named secretary of state, David Whitley, flagged a list of about 95,000 registered voters whom his office said had provided DPS with some form of documentation that showed they were not citizens when they obtained their driver’s licenses or IDs.
Reacting to Whitley’s announcement Friday, Abbott thanked him for “uncovering and investigating this illegal vote registration,” promising legislation to address it.
But when he was asked about the fiasco Thursday at an unrelated news conference, the governor recast the effort.
“They were clear that it was a weak match, and they were reaching out to counties saying, ‘Listen, this isn’t a hard-and-fast list,” Abbott said. “This is a list that we need to work on together to make sure that those who do not have the legal authority to vote are not going to be able to vote.”
Abbott’s remarks come two days after it became clear secretary of state’s office had mistakenly called into question the citizenship status of thousands of voters who were, in fact, citizens.
In Bastrop County, Elections Administrator Bridgette Escobedo said she had worked her way through about one-third of a list of 145 names, finding 15 that did not belong there. She said she also found several names of people who had become naturalized citizens.
Also Wednesday, county officials said they have had little luck connecting with the secretary of state’s office to clarify the situation.
Escobedo said she asked Whitley’s office to provide a “clean” list of suspected noncitizen voters but had heard no response by early Thursday evening.
“We’re wasting a lot of resources and energy on nonissues,” she said. “Don’t make me go through all 145 people on my list if you know some shouldn’t be on there.”
In Williamson County, Davis said the secretary of state’s office had not responded to his request for written instructions on how to cull the list of suspected noncitizens — information Whitley’s office provided by telephone Tuesday.
Travis County also received no response to its request that Whitley revise his initial advisory, county spokeswoman Tiffany Seward said Wednesday.
While counties have begun removing names from their lists, the secretary of state’s website continues to promote — without revision or correction — its Friday notice claiming that 95,000 people were identified as registered voters who are possible noncitizens, a violation of state law, and that 58,000 of those people had voted in one or more elections, a potential felony.
Whitley’s office has not responded to questions posed Tuesday and Wednesday asking if there are plans to update the numbers or publicly acknowledge that the original list included U.S. citizens who were mistakenly included.
We joke, because we must in order to cope, but this is all clearly setting the stage to purge voter rolls as much as possible. Republicans saw what happened in 2018. They will do what they can to stop the same thing from happening in 2020. Texas Monthly, who quotes former SOS Carlos Cascos saying the whole list should be rescinded, and the Chron, have more.