- The Washington Times
Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Texas Democratic Party asked non-citizens to register to vote, sending out applications to immigrants with the box citizenship already checked “Yes,” according to new complaints filed Thursday asking prosecutors to see what laws may have been broken.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation alerted district attorneys and the federal Justice Department to the pre-checked applications, and also included a signed affidavit from a man who said some of his relatives, who aren’t citizens, received the mailing.

“This is how the Texas Democratic Party is inviting foreign influence in an election in a federal election cycle,” said Logan Churchwell, spokesman for the PILF, a group that’s made its mark policing states’ voter registration practices.

The Texas secretary of state’s office said it, too, had gotten complaints both from immigrants and from relatives of dead people who said they got mailings asking them to register.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vowed to investigate.

“If true there will be serious consequences,” he said.

The PILF publicly released complaints it sent to Hidalgo and Starr counties asking for an investigation. The organization also provided copies of pre-marked voter applications and the affidavit from the man who said his non-citizen relatives received the mailing.

The applications were pre-addressed to elections officials, which is likely what left many voters to believe they were receiving an official communication from the state.

But the return address was from the State Democratic Executive Committee, and listed an address in Austin that matches the state Democratic Party’s headquarters.

The letter is emblazoned with “Urgent! Your voter registration deadline is October 9.” It continues: “Your voter registration application is inside. Complete, sign and return it today!”

On the application, boxes affirming the applicant is both 18 and a U.S. citizen are already checked with an “X” in the Yes field.

The mailing also urges those who are unsure if they’re registered to “Mail it in.”

A person answering phones at the state party declined to connect The Washington Times with any officials there, insisting that a reporter email questions. That email went unanswered.

Sam Taylor, spokesman for Texas’s secretary of state, said they heard from people whose relatives were receiving mail despite having passed away 10 years ago or longer. One woman said her child, who’d been dead 19 years, got a mailing asking to register.

“It looks like a case of really bad information they are using to send out these mailers,” Mr. Taylor said.

He said some of the non-citizens who called wondered whether there had been some change that made them now legally able to vote despite not being citizens.

Mr. Taylor said there is a state law against encouraging someone to falsify a voter application, but it would be up to investigators to decide if pre-checking a box rose to that level.

PILF has been pushing state election officials in recent years to be wary of non-citizens who manage to register and, in many cases, to actually cast ballots. The organization has found thousands of people who later admitted they weren’t citizens, but who managed to register or vote in New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania

The organization is also embroiled in a legal battle with Harris County, Texas, which has declined to provide PILF with similar voter data.

PILF says usually the origin of non-citizens voting is motor vehicle bureaus, where people are pressed to register — and often ignore or miss the admonition that they must be citizens.

In this case, though, the invitations were sent directly by a political party.

The data from North Carolina suggests that non-citizens who vote skew decidedly Democratic, based on their pattern of voting in Democratic primaries.

The affidavit PILF provided to prosecutors Thursday is from David C. Kifuri Jr.

He said “several relatives” of his who are legal permanent residents but not citizens got the mailing, and were confused. He said in his affidavit he told them to report the mailing to local authorities and not to fill it out any further.

The Hidalgo County election office said it forwards all applications that arrive to the state for processing. Officials can’t tell whether something was pre-checked or not when it got to the applicant.

A county elections spokeswoman couldn’t say whether pre-checking the citizenship box was legal.

Mr. Churchwell, though, said it crosses lines because prosecutors looking into whether someone illegally registered to vote need to be able to see the intent of the applicant, and a pre-checked box defeats that.

Mr. Churchwell said the party was putting immigrants in a tough position, as evidenced by the number of them who were calling state officials wondering if there’s been some change allowing them to vote.

“The victims will actually be the non-citizens,” he said.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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