Voter integrity hawks are hailing an investigation by the Texas secretary of state that uncovered 95,000 noncitizen residents who illegally registered to vote.
It was one of the largest discoveries of non-eligible voters by any one state. Conservative groups say Secretary of State David Whitley’s inquiry produced real numbers to support their years of lawsuits and research. They say noncitizen voter fraud is significant, as opposed to the left’s contention that it is rare.
“Demonstrating, much less discussing, noncitizen voting activity is the worst form of heresy one can commit for left-wing groups,” Logan Churchwell, director of communications and research at the Public Interest Legal Foundation, told The Washington Times.
In Texas, there will be a legal fight. The League of United Latin American Citizens filed a lawsuit on Tuesday challenging the upcoming voter purge.
“It’s clear that the right-wing elements in Texas government are trying to rig the system to keep power and disenfranchise 95,000 American citizens,” said Domingo Garcia, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens. “There is no voter fraud in Texas. It’s a lie repeated time and again to suppress minority voters, and we’re going to fight hard against it.”
How did Mr. Whitley obtain the numbers? He compared two main databases — Department of Public Safety driver license records, which include immigration status, and voter rolls. He found about 95,000 noncitizens registered among 16 million voters on Texas rosters, of whom 58,000 actually voted since 1996.
In issuing driver licenses, the Department of Public Safety verifies an applicant is a legal U.S. resident by checking with the Department of Homeland Security. But proof of citizenship isn’t needed to register to vote.
“It is the tip of the iceberg,” Tom Fitton, director of the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, told The Times. “This shows the urgent need for citizenship verification for voting. The Department of Justice should follow up with a national investigation.”
Mr. Fitton operates an election integrity project. On Jan. 4, he announced the settlement of a lawsuit with the state of California and Los Angeles County to expunge as many as 1.5 million inactive voters for their rolls. Conservatives believe such bloated lists lead to fraud.
“Los Angeles County has more voter registrations on its voter rolls than it has citizens who are old enough to register,” he said.
No state requires proof of citizenship to register to vote. A U.S. District Court judge last year struck down a law championed by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to require citizenship documentation. Kansas appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.
Liberal states are moving in the other direction. Maryland this year became one of 14 states that allow voters to register on Election Day. They need to show only that they live in the state. Like other state’s voter registration form, the citizenship question is on the honor system.
Preventing noncitizens from voting illegally is particularly important for Republicans in Texas, which for now is a solid “red” state. Democrats are counting on shifting demographics to turn it “blue,” thus greatly lessening a Republican’s chances of winning the White House.
The drive to purge non-citizen voters is a Republican show. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott appointed fellow GOPer Whitley as secretary of State. If any one is to be prosecuted it will be done by Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton.
“Every single instance of illegal voting threatens democracy in our state and deprives individual Texans of their voice,” Mr. Paxton said. “My Election Fraud Unit stands ready to investigate and prosecute crimes against the democratic process when needed.”
From now on, the secretary of state will on a monthly basis compare newly registered voters to federal immigration records at the Department of Homeland Security.
“This carries the benefit of being a report plus a reform,” Mr. Churchwell said. “This wasn’t a one-off research project. Texas will be actively screening for existing potential non-citizen registrants on a monthly basis, which is something we’ve long pushed for.”
The Latino group’s Texas law suit accuses the state of “voter intimidation and voter suppression.”
It says more than 50,000 Texans are naturalized each year and most of them vote in their first election.
Earlier, a coalition of 13 liberal groups, including the ACLU, sent a letter to Mr. Whitley demanding he rescind his advisory to 254 local election boards.
“The methodology your office apparently employed to identify such voters looks deeply flawed and its origins and intent are highly suspect,” the letter said.
They said that since drivers’ licenses are issued every six years, the person could have become a citizen after their immigration status was submitted to the Department of Public Safety.
Mr. Shipley set out a process whereby the boards will notify each of the 95,000 and ask them to verify they are citizens. So if the person did in fact become a citizen, they will remain as a registered voter.
The non-citizen debate reached the national level in 2014 when Jesse T. Richman, a professor at Old Dominion University, and two colleagues, began publishing estimates of thousands and perhaps millions of illegal voters.
Focusing on the 2008 presidential election, he concluded a wide range, from 38,000 to 2.8 million non-citizens, voted.
Mr. Whitley’s report said that of 95,000 non-citizens, 58,000 none citizens have voted in the past 20 years.
Every state is different. In theory, if the 58,000 voted in the 2008 presidential election, for example, that would be 0.73 percent of 8 million cast that year in Texas.
Taken nationwide, 0.73 percent would mean 950,000 voted.
Mr. Richman based his numbers on the comprehensive Cooperative Congressional Election Studies conducted by YouGov polling and a consortium of colleges. It is one of the few polls that attempts to find non-citizen voters.
The consortium’s professors dismissed Mr. Richman’s work. After whittling down their own polling of aliens, they determined that, statistically, “zero” vote in U.S. elections.
They have allies at the liberal Brennan Center. Two scholars wrote in 2017: “Like voter fraud generally, non-citizen voting is incredibly rare. Simply put, we already know that ineligible non-citizens do not vote in American elections — including the 2016 election — except at negligible rates.”
They were responding to President Trump’s post-election assertion that millions of non-citizens voted in 2016.
The U.S. Census Bureau says there are about 22 million non-citizens, about half of whom are here illegally.
A 2013 poll called the National Hispanic Poll by Republican pollster John McLaughlin found that 13 percent of non-citizen Hispanic respondents said they were registered to vote.
James Agresti, who directs research at the “Just Facts” non-profit, applied the 13 percent figure to the 2013 Census which said 11.8 million non-citizen Hispanics live here. Mr. Agresti calculated that the range of illegal registered Hispanics could be 800,000 to 2.2 million.
“We know for a fact, you have massive numbers of non-citizens registered to vote in this country,” White House adviser Stephen Miller said in 2017.
In a sense, Texas’ Mr. Whitley did what Mr. Trump wanted his ill-fated voter fraud commission to do: compare voter registration data with immigration status to come up with a firm national number. But Mr. Trump disbanded his panel in January 2018 after an onslaught of lawsuits.
• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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