Eric Gay / AP
A Texas federal judge said that state officials "created a mess" when they attempted to wipe out about 98,000 voters from registration lists by mistakenly concluding that these voters Were not citizens entitled to vote.
The highly written decision of US District Judge Fred Biery of San Antonio ordered the Texas authorities to suspend the removal of any registered voters from the state's voters list.
"The evidence showed during a hearing before this Court that there was no widespread election fraud," wrote Biery.
At the end of January, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley issued a "Notice Regarding Activities to Keep the List of Registered Voters". He claimed to have found nearly 95,000 non-citizens on the state's electoral rolls and indicated that about 58,000 had voted in one or more Texas elections.
He also said that suspected voters would be contacted and informed that their registration status was being revised.
Whitley's action met with immediate opposition. Civil rights groups said the list was largely composed of naturalized citizens who had applied for a driver's license or a national identity card while they were still legal permanent residents.
As Ashley Lopez reported from the KUT station in Austin, state officials were forced to give up their claims of fraud.
At a hearing on Monday, Keith Ingram, the chief election officer at the Texas State Secretary's office, said more than 25,000 people on the list were actually citizens.
In his ruling, Judge Biery said that the search for illegal voters "seems to be a solution to the search for a problem".
"In spite of good intentions, the road to a solution was paved with erroneous results, which meant that naturalized, perfectly legalized Americans were overwhelmed by what the Court considered to be a mistreated and threatening correspondence from the State. who did not politely ask for information but the power of the government to sow fear and anxiety and to intimidate the less powerful among us, "wrote the judge.
In a statement, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the federal judge had "improperly assumed control" over the state's voting system.
"Although we acknowledged to the court that the Secretary of State had acted in good faith, no state official has violated the applicable law and no resumption of state activities by a federal court is necessary, "wrote Paxton. "We are evaluating our options to implement this decision and continue to defend our argument that non-eligible voters should not vote and counties are free to continue to abide by the law and keep their voters lists clean."
Biery ruled that Texas county election officials can still investigate whether a registered voter is not a citizen, but they can not contact him directly through the notice.
Civil rights groups applauded the decision.
"The court's decision makes it clear that the state of Texas must put its affairs in order," said Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican-American Fund for Defense and Justice, in a statement. a statement. "Abusive statements of widespread fraud on voters without any evidence only serve to largely dissuade voters from participating." The sending of disturbing letters to intimidate individual voters on the basis of information known as incomplete and erroneous directly threatens democracy. "