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Latino Voters’ Rights Protected by Texas Lawsuit

04.26.2019

For Immediate Release
Contact: Karina Martínez at karinam@mifamiliavota.org

Latino Voters’ Rights Protected by Texas Lawsuit

 

(San Antonio, TX) – The Texas Secretary of State, David Whitley, will reform the way it identifies voters for investigation of U.S. citizenship and withdraw the election advisory sent to all counties earlier this year, according to a settlement agreement reached today with civil rights groups.

The lawsuit was filed by Latino voters and organizations represented by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), and Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), Asian Americans Advancing Justice|AAJC (Advancing Justice|AAJC) later joined the legal challenge. The settlement with Texas officials comes three months after state officials began singling out naturalized citizens for investigation and possible removal from voter rolls based solely on the fact that they were born outside the United States.

“Voter rights should never be jeopardized by malicious intent; the Secretary ofState directly targeted the Latino and immigrant community in this attempt to purge the voter rolls. We are satisfied that the Secretary will have to comply with a panoply of actions, but we will remain vigilant to ensure that our rights are protected,” said Texas state director Carlos Duarte.

“This settlement brings an end to a deplorable Texas farce, in which state leaders shamelessly lied about alleged widespread fraud by Latino and other immigrants, grabbing headlines and national attention.” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “Much like Donald Trump’s similarly baseless allegation after losing the popular vote in 2016, there was nothing to the Texas leaders’ claims, and they knew it, sacrificing voters’ peace of mind and their own integrity for the sake of scurrilous politicking.”

MALDEF sued the Texas Secretary of State David Whitley, other state officials and a number of counties in February after Whitley sent an advisory to county registrars directing them to send letters to more than 95,000 registered voters threatening to purge them for non-U.S. citizenship. The next day, Whitley informed the counties that the list of suspect voters issued by his office contained erroneous information, but he did not withdraw the list or advisory. Within weeks the Secretary of State’s office admitted that at least 25,000 voters on the purge list were U.S. citizens.

As part of the agreement, the Secretary of State will inform all counties to take no further action on any data files sent to them earlier this year, and advise the counties to notify registered voters who received a notice of examination that they are still registered to vote and that their voter registration status is no longer in question. Texas counties have started notifying voters. The settlement includes the following changes to the Secretary of State’s procedures for identifying voters for investigation of U.S. citizenship:

  • Under the new procedure, the Secretary will identify only currently registered voters who registered to vote before they presented documents to DPS indicating non-U.S. citizenship (e.g., a green card). The Secretary will send only those names to the counties for further investigation of citizenship.
  • The Texas Secretary of State will provide all counties a new election advisory and written training material. Among other things, the new advisory and training material will advise all counties to treat the new data as weak matches and that they may not immediately cancel any voter’s registration.
  • The Texas Secretary of State will promulgate a new notice of examination letter on its website for counties to use. The updated notice will be available in all languages required under state and federal law and will address concerns raised by the court regarding the existing notice, including: (1) informing voters of the different ways in which they can present proof of U.S. citizenship, including e-mail to the county registrar; (2) providing a new and expanded list of documents voters can use to prove U.S. citizenship; and (3) informing voters they have a right to request a hearing to challenge their cancellation, including when the voters lack documentation of U.S. citizenship.
  • Voters whose registration is canceled after being sent a notice of examination but who later prove their U.S. citizenship at the polling place or to their county voter registrar must be reinstated (as opposed to re-registered) immediately.

MALDEF represents individual naturalized U.S. citizens living in Travis, Smith, Wood, Kerr, Galveston, Hildalgo, Austin, Dallas, Harris and Bexar counties, along with La Union Del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), UnidosUS, Southwest Voter Registration Education Project and Mi Familia Vota Educational Fund. AALDEF and AAJC | Advancing Justice represent OCA – Greater Houston. The case was consolidated with two other cases challenging the voter purge. Those cases are also settled by today’s agreement.

Read the settlement agreement here.
Read Texas officials’ admissions that U.S. citizens were included on purge lists.

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Mi Familia Vota is a national civic engagement organization that unites Latino, immigrant, and allied communities to promote social and economic justice through citizenship workshops, voter registration, and voter participation. Mi Familia Vota has operations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and Texas.