Warning that the “likelihood of severe harm is high,” civil rights organizations asked a federal judge to order an immediate halt to a state-initiated process that questions the citizenship of thousands of registered voters in Texas. The MOVE Texas Civic Fund, the Jolt Initiative, League of Women Voters of Texas and Texas resident Nivien Saleh filed a motion for a preliminary injunction Wednesday, seeking to prevent any Texans from wrongly being removed from the voter rolls while the groups’ lawsuit against the state and five county elections officials proceeds. The request focuses on a Jan. 25 advisory sent by Texas Secretary of State David Whitley, asking local election offices to look into the citizenship of 95,000 people on the voter rolls. Whitley recommended that counties send notices to people the state flagged as possible non-citizens, giving them 30 days to prove they’re eligible to vote by presenting proper documentation. If they don’t respond, their registrations would be canceled by the county voter registrar. Even if a notice is returned as undeliverable, the advisory instructs the county to cancel the registration.
“The 30-day clock is already running for any flagged eligible citizens in Defendant counties, at the end of which they will be purged from the voter rolls,” the motion reads. “A preliminary injunction to preserve the status quo and prevent citizens from being removed from the voting rolls is necessary.”
The ACLU of Texas, along with the Texas Civil Rights Project, Demos and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, filed the lawsuit against Whitley and Director of Elections Keith Ingram. The suit alleges that the state’s advisory discriminates against naturalized citizens.
Also named in the suit are the election administrators in Galveston, Blanco, Fayette, Caldwell, and Washington counties, who sent out notices threatening to cancel voter registrations based on the list.