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Texas Voters: Federal Judge Blocks GOP Efforts to Purge Electoral Rolls

In this archive photo from February 7, 2019, Secretary of State David Whitley, left, goes to his confirmation hearing in Austin, Texas, where he spoke of the brutal reaction of Texas efforts to find non-citizen voters on the electoral lists. (Eric Gay, File)

A federal judge ordered Texas election officials to put an end to a scheduled purge of voters lists, calling their efforts "punched" and "threatening" and claiming that there was nothing wrong with it. no evidence of electoral fraud prevalent in the state.

Wednesday's decision, relieving activists of the right to vote, temporarily puts an end to the Secretary of State's search for non-citizens who could have voted illegally – an investigation that turned out to be deeply flawed just days after the start.

At the end of January, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley announced with surprise that nearly 60,000 non-citizens over two decades could have voted in the legislative elections. In response to this finding, Whitley said, counties must conduct a "list maintenance activity," a bureaucratic euphemism for the cancellation of fraud suspect records.

Whitley's statement has galvanized lawmakers – almost all Republicans – who claim that tens of thousands of non-citizens are committing large-scale electoral fraud. Even President Trump weighed in.

But there was a disadvantage: as Judge Fred Biery, the US District Judge, said this week, the Secretary of State's numbers were wrong.

"It seems like it's a solution looking for a problem," Biery writes in his judgment, claiming that this policy "illustrates the government's power to scare and worry the government and the government." to intimidate the less powerful among us ".

A few days after Whitley's assertion, it became clear that thousands of people on his list were US citizens entitled to vote. Whitley, asserting that he was still in favor of a citizenship review, is still apologized for the clumsy way his office has deployed.

The episode and the resulting court battle made Texas the last state to falsely claim that a large number of non-citizens voted in the US elections. Lawmakers in North Carolina, Florida, Colorado, Indiana, and Kansas have made similar efforts in recent years.

Texas lawyers applauded the decision.

"It was a blatant attempt by state officials – who should protect the vote – to suppress the voice of Texas residents and target immigrants and people of color," said Stuart Naifeh, lead counsel. Demos think tank, which was one of the organizations that sued the state to block the purge.

Thomas A. Saenz, head of the United States of America's Legal Defense and Education Fund of Mexico, another plaintiff, said the judge's decision showed that the state should "put of order in his actions ".

"The exaggerated claims of widespread electoral fraud, without any evidence, serve only to largely dissuade voter turnout," Saenz said. "Texans can and should expect much better officials from all over the state, elected and appointed, whose job is to defend, not undermine, constitutional democracy."

Attorney General Ken Paxton, however, argued that Biery's decision was an excess of federal justice and said that a state should be allowed to "maintain the integrity of its voters lists".

"It's not necessary for the Federal Court to take control of state activities," Paxton said in a statement. "We are weighing our options to respond to 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."

While litigation continued, Biery ordered, counties may conduct inquiries to determine whether certain voters are citizens, but public servants are not allowed to communicate directly with these people. Biery wrote that no county can withdraw an elector from its registration "without the prior agreement of the court with conclusive evidence that the person is not eligible to vote."

The ongoing imbroglio could also have political consequences for Whitley, which the Texas Senate has not yet confirmed. The 12 Democrats in the House voted against his confirmation and their opposition would prevent Whitley from getting the two-thirds majority he needs.

In the last paragraph of Biery's decision, Whitley blamed Whitley outright by writing that the Secretary of State had "created this mess" and invoking Robert Fulghum's book entitled "All I really need to know that I learned in kindergarten ". off: "always put things where we found them," he writes, "and cleans up our own mess."

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