Emails Reveal Texas Governor’s Office Was Behind State’s Botched Voter Purge

Emails showing that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) office spearheaded the state’s dubious decision to purge approximately 100,000 alleged non-citizens from Texas’ voter rolls were made public on Tuesday.

The controversy started when Texas’s former acting Secretary of State David Whitley publicly announced that his office had discovered that a “total of approximately 95,000 individuals identified by [the Department of Public Safety] as non-U.S. citizens” were illegally registered to vote in the state. Whitley further alleged that “approximately 58,000″ of those voters had voted in “one or more” Texas elections.

What turned out be a baseless declaration of rampant voter fraud caused a frenzy throughout the state, with officials holding up the claim as proof that voter identification laws needed to be strengthened.

In the aftermath of the bungled voter purge, the Texas Senate refused to confirm Whitley as Secretary of State, forcing him to submit his resignation in May.

The emails were released Tuesday by the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Campaign Legal Center (LULAC), which represented plaintiffs suing the state. The emails revealed that Gov. Abbott’s office was the real driving force behind Texas’s failed voter purge. It appeared that Abbott’s office pressured Department of Public Safety (DPS) officials to provide data that the Secretary of State’s office could use for voter list maintenance beginning in March of 2018, according to a report from the Express-News.

John Crawford–a “top official” at the driver’s license division of DPS–said in an email from August 2018 that there had already been a request before to compare data of licensed drivers to the state’s voter rolls.

“We have an urgent request from the governor’s office to do it again,” Crawford said.

The Secretary of State’s office emailed an advisory warning to county election officials in January regarding the 95,000 alleged non-citizen voters. The warning was immediately backed by Abbott and Texas’ Attorney General Ken Paxton, who tweeted: “VOTER FRAUD ALERT: [Secretary of State Whitley] discovered approx 95,000 individuals identified by DPS as non-U.S. citizens have a matching voter registration record in TX, approx 58,000 of whom have voted in TX elections. Any illegal vote deprives Americans of their voice.”

Abbott thanked Paxton and Whitley “for uncovering and investigating this illegal vote registration,” adding, “I support prosecution where appropriate.”

Despite the origin of the request, Abbott’s office was not mentioned by a single witness during a three-day federal court hearing in San Antonio, even when questions were specifically targeted at the provenance of the voter purge program.

Critics are now demanding accountability from Abbott.

“The bottom line is this was the governor’s program,” said Luis Vera, LULAC’s national general counsel. “He threw Whitley and the DPS secretary under the bus. All along it was the governor pushing for [the voter purge program].”

Additionally, despite his forced resignation last month, Whitley recently landed a new position with Gov. Abbott’s office, earning a $205,000 annual salary.

[Image via Loren Elliott/Getty Images]

Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.

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