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Texas’ renewed voting-roll purge is flagging citizens, including some in San Antonio, as likely non-citizens

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Voters waiting in line to cast their ballots at Lion's Field in San Antonio. - SANFORD NOWLIN
  • Sanford Nowlin
  • Voters waiting in line to cast their ballots at Lion's Field in San Antonio.
Texas' 2019 attempt to kick 100,000 people it identified as non-U.S. citizens off its voter roles blew up into a national embarrassment. The purge, based on faulty data, was shut down amid a flurry of federal lawsuits and cost then-Secretary of State David Whitley has job.

Now, the Texas Secretary of State's office is at it again, this time undertaking a "scaled-down" approach that's still falsely marking a substantial share of voters — including some in the San Antonio area — as non-citizens, according to a Texas Tribune investigation. Those flagged for review could be struck from state voting rolls.

County registrars — Bexar among them — have identified voters marked on the state list as non-citizens even though they filled out voter registration cards at their naturalization ceremonies, according to the story. Some voters flagged as non-citizens were even born in the United States.

Meanwhile, the Texas Secretary of State told the Tribune it's following the parameters of a settlement agreement it entered in 2019 as a result of the federal lawsuits. The agreement limits the state's review to people who registered to vote yet later turned up in driver's license records as having identified themselves as non-citizens.

Officials with civil-rights groups that sued the state in 2019 told the Tribune they're concerned by the new numbers, which show the state is once again botching the process.

After reviewing the data, the ACLU of Texas told the Tribune it's still assessing the extent of the state's failure. However, ACLU Staff Attorney Thomas Buser-Clancy said the flubs are reason for concern.

“What we do know is that every time the secretary of state tries to do something like this it fails and that these efforts, which inevitably ensnare eligible voters, should not be happening,” he said.

After analyzing the list of 641 voters flagged by the state in its new purge attempt, Bexar County found that 109, or 17% of the total, had become citizens at naturalization ceremonies, according to the Tribune. In Travis County, elections officials determined that 60 of the 408 flagged voters, or 15%, had taken part in naturalization ceremonies.

Officials in counties including Cameron, Fort Bend, Harris and Williamson also said they have been in communication with voters flagged by the state who are, in fact, citizens.

The renewed push to eject non-citizens from the voter rolls comes amid a nationwide scramble by Republican leaders to crack down on election fraud — something data shows is virtually nonexistent. Some of that push echoes former President Donald Trump's Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

During its most recent session, the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature passed a sweeping law tightening the state's already restrictive voting rules and reining in the ability of local officials to make voting easier.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who championed that new law, also appears to have requested the 2019 purge of voter rolls, according to a string of emails unearthed by the League of United Latin American Citizens.

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