For some Republicans, including President Donald Trump, Friday’s announcement that state officials had identified 95,000 registered voters as possible non-U.S. citizens provided all the proof they needed to confirm suspicions that illegal voting is pervasive. Democrats and civil rights activists greeted the news skeptically, arguing that the scenario described by Texas Secretary of State David Whitley mirrored the GOP playbook under Trump by using inflated accusations to justify cracking down on voting rights, particularly for minority voters. “Make no mistake,” said Beth Stevens, the voting rights legal director of the Texas Civil Rights Project. “The state is going to use this highly suspect ‘investigation’ to try to pass laws that will make it harder for eligible Texas voters to cast a ballot that counts.”
Whitley, in a Friday advisory to county voting officials, said his office compared voter rolls with Department of Public Safety data listing individuals who provided documents showing they were not a U.S. citizen but were in the country legally when they applied for a driver’s license or personal identification card.
The advisory said the data, which also indicated that 58,000 of the 95,000 possible noncitizens had voted in at least one election since 1996, should “be treated as WEAK matches,” meaning the information needed to be investigated before names could be stricken from the voting rolls.
Counties, which oversee voter registration, began receiving lists of the voters on Monday.
Civil rights groups and Democrats questioned whether the data considered the many Texans who become naturalized U.S. citizens — including almost 1.11 million since 1996, according to U.S. Department of Homeland Security numbers.