GALVESTON

Dozens of Galveston County residents will soon receive official letters demanding they prove their citizenship or be removed from the voter rolls and have their names referred to the district attorney’s office for possible criminal investigation.

The county voter registrar’s office on Monday sent letters to more than 80 registered voters the Texas Secretary of State’s office late last week flagged as potential non-citizens, County Tax-Assessor Collector Cheryl Johnson said.

The tax office is also the voter registrar.

The letters warn people they must prove their citizenship to remain on the county’s voter rolls, Johnson said.

Johnson’s office mailed the letters after the Secretary of State’s office last week flagged tens of thousands of registered voters as potential non-citizens — including more than 800 from Galveston County.

“We did what we always do when we receive information about a non-citizen,” Johnson said Tuesday. “We send a letter to verify citizenship.”

But even as Johnson’s office was preparing to mail more letters to voters on Tuesday, the project was halted when the secretary of state’s office notified election offices statewide that its initial list might have been inaccurate.

The letters that were sent out carry serious possible ramifications for the people who receive them.

People who receive the letter have 30 days to respond to the registrar’s office and prove their citizenship.

If they don’t respond, their voter registration will be suspended and their names will be forwarded to the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office, which could investigate the person for potential voter fraud, Johnson said.

After a name is sent to the district attorney’s office, it is up to prosecutors to determine whether any fraud occurred, she said.

The purpose of the letters is to clarify people’s voter status, Johnson said.

“We’re not going after people,” Johnson said. “We’re just trying to reach out to people. If they don’t respond, I can’t help them with that.”

Even before Johnson’s office began sending letters, a notion the state was attempting to purge voters rolls alarmed civil right groups.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, a civil rights group, on Tuesday sued the state to stop reviews of the names flagged by the secretary of state’s office, saying the project was meant to intimidate Hispanic voters who are naturalized citizens.

People who do respond to the letter will have to prove they are U.S. citizens and Texas residents, which voters are not required to do when they initially register to vote, Johnson said.

People who are legal, registered voters shouldn’t be alarmed about receiving the letters, Johnson said.

“You would think to people who are new citizens, this would be important,” Johnson said.

The steps the office is taking are typical for when registered voters are flagged as potential non-citizens, Johnson said.

It is the same process the county uses when people summoned for jury duty tell district court officials they are not citizens, Johnson said.

Although the state’s list flagged more than 800 names in Galveston County, Johnson said her office stopped sending letters Tuesday, after the secretary of state’s office called the county and said some of the flagged names should not have been on its list. At least 100 names were no longer considered suspicious, Johnson said.

The voter registrars office would review the new information, and send a second letter to people who should not have been asked to prove their citizenship. People who do not receive a second letter would still be required to respond to the first letter, she said.

Galveston County was apparently the only large Texas county that began asking for citizenship information immediately after the secretary of state’s alert, according to the Texas Tribune.

The secretary of state’s office announced Friday it had a list of 95,000 voter registrations the Texas Department of Public Safety had linked to people who are not U.S. citizens.

The secretary of state said 58,000 of those people had voted in one or more state election, raising the specter of wide-spread voter fraud.

Shortly after that notice, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement through his campaign committee promising to prosecute non-citizens who voted illegally. The email was headlined “Voter Fraud Alert.”

“Now we have 95,000 reasons to not back down,” Paxton wrote. “We will enforce the law and bring criminals to justice to protect the integrity of Texas elections.”

However, voting rights groups argue there are simple reasons other than fraud for people to appear on the secretary of state’s list.

The secretary of state’s office generated its list by comparing information collected from people who obtained drivers licenses and state ID cards to voter registrations.

Non-citizens might legally obtain a valid ID card or driver’s license with a green card or work visa, later become citizens, register to vote and end up on the state’s list of suspicious voters, for example, voter rights groups said.

There’s no requirement for people who become citizens to update the Texas Department of Public Safety about changes in their citizenship, the groups said.

Tens of thousands of people become naturalized citizens in Texas each year, and the flagged names include people who voted in elections between 1996 and 2018, increasing the likelihood that naturalized citizens were among the flagged names, the groups said.

Texas officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have named combating voter fraud a top priority, but even by the state’s count voter fraud prosecutions in Texas are extremely rare.

Between 2005 and 2017, the state prosecuted 97 people for voter fraud violations, according to Paxton’s office. Last year, amid a publicized ramp up of fraud investigations, the attorney general’s office prosecuted 33 people for election fraud, according to Paxton’s office

By contrast, about 8.4 million people voted in November’s mid-term election.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

Locations

Senior Reporter

(16) comments

John E Sr. Macrini

Thank You Greg Abbott, Ken Paxton and Cheryl Johnson.

George Croix

LULAC claiming 'voter intimidation'.....
There's a new one....[beam][beam]

Echoing John Macrini, thanks to ALL who CARE about potential voter fraud, rather than just parrot the line that there is none....

80 out of a county of roughly 335,000.
Yeah, buddy...a bit over 2/10,000 of one percent and it's front page top of fold headline news....

But, no doubt if 80 were PROVEN to be illegally registered to vote, that would also be front page news, so that would be the balance....???.....?

Dalton Logan

My understanding is The State actually tagged 800 in Galveston County, they just stopped sending out the letters at 80 until more clarification is received.

George Croix

Thanks, Carlos.

The 'myth' of voter fraud lives on in talking points.....
In reality, though, each case is the theft of an honest, legal citizen's means of directly effecting his/her own interests via representation...it should be punished AS theft, not encouraged by the usual suspects....imo....

Carlos Ponce

LULAC needs to change their name to LULLAC - League of United Liberal Latin American Citizens. Checking citizenship status when red flagged is not voter intimidation. It's what Americans demand of their local government officials - follow the letter of the law. I am certain that many of the 80 will produce the proper documentation. It will point out holes in the citizenship identification process. This can be taken care of. But if only ONE is identified as voting as a non-citizen then follow the letter of the law.
I still think signs need to be posted at polling sites large enough for all to see - "Voting is for citizens only. If you are a non-citizen and vote you will be prosecuted."

George Croix

Anyone of any race/creed/color/whatever who IS falsely registered and/or committing voter fraud SHOULD be intimidated.....
That's the whole point of HAVING a registration system....
'Motor voting' and 'same day registration' are nothing more than efforts to get around the legal voting process, and get away with as much as possible...imo.....

Vanessa McAfee

The list goes back to 1996 and it is filled with erroneous errors. This is a cheap shot attempt to suppress votes. It is odd all how so many pick and choose what “rights” they want to protect. Every other county in Texas that received a list had enough snap to not act on it immediately, but our tea bagger tax assessor jumped right on it! Too bad Civil Rights are not as important to some as the ludicrous gun rights! #hypocrites

Carlos Ponce

Vanessa seems to be under the false impression that local county officials are going to take that list and charge each and every individual on it with voter fraud. Far from it. The county will send out letters requesting confirmation of citizenship status. They know the state information is not up to date. If the proper documentation is presented, information on that individual will be updated. If not they have some "splaining" to do.
"Every other county in Texas that received a list had enough snap to not act on it immediately... " Depends on the county. Most will do as Galveston County.
"Victoria County to investigate voter registration of 128 residents"
https://www.victoriaadvocate.com/news/government/victoria-county-to-investigate-voter-registration-of-residents/article_3c1f4e70-234b-11e9-b3a5-f3481fa8048a.html
"[Travis] County officials vowed to review the list of 4,547 registered voters they received but were still trying to convert the data into a usable format."
"Collin County’s election administrator, Bruce Sherbert, said they had received a list of approximately 4,700 names and would consider them on a case-by-case basis, checking for cases in which a voter might have already provided some form of proof they are citizens."
"Facing a list of 2,033 individuals, Williamson County officials said they were considering ways in which they could determine citizenship without sending notices to voters."
"Election officials in Fort Bend County said they had received a list of about 8,400 voters."
"El Paso County officials said their list included 4,152 voters."
Now while these counties have thousands, Galveston County has a manageable number of 830.
http://t-span.tv/some-texas-voters-are-already-being-asked-to-prove-their-citizenship-following-states-announcement/

George Croix

Question:

HOW will it 'suppress votes'?
By what means?
In what way(s)?
Why would any voter legally entitled to do so be 'suppressed' from voting by illegally registered voters being taken off the roles?
HOW??
HOW is it a 'civil rights' issue to purge illegally registered people from a voter registration list?
Both the 19th and 2nd Amendments to the Constitution guarantee rights to CITZENS....how is one 'ludicrous' if not the other?
#talkitwalkit

George Croix

Always....always....the same non-answer to that ‘how’ question...

George Croix

OK.
Open it up wider....lot of people say it, so SOMEBODY must be able to say why they say it.....

ANYONE?
ANYONE?

HOW is making sure voter roles only contain those who can legally vote a 'civil rights issue' and/or 'voter suppression'?????

In the absence of any real reason, any real why, how is making such claim(s) anything other than class/race/ethnic/whatever baiting and/or attempted PC intimidation?

Anybody?


Jose' Boix

According to the Texas Voter Registration Application, Item 10 states:
"I understand that giving false information to procure a voter registration is perjury, and a crime under state and federal law. Conviction of this crime may result in imprisonment up to 180 days, a fine up to $2,000, or both. Please read all three statements to affirm before signing.
I am a resident of this county and a U.S. Citizen;
I have not been finally convicted of a felony, or if a felon, I have completed all of my punishment including any term of incarceration, parole, supervision, period of probation, or I have been pardoned; and
I have not been determined by a final judgment of a court exercising probate jurisdiction to be totally mentally incapacitated or partially mentally incapacitated without the right to vote.

George Croix

Yes.
How anybody can get 'voter suppression' out of that, much less 'civil rights violations', escapes me....AND, evidently, also the people saying so....[whistling][rolleyes]

Charles Hughes

Gotta make sure all those Dem wins in midterms dont happen again.Shoot man thius is Texas.

George Croix

Texas, because we have not yet 'resisted' sanity and bowed to the national PC epidemic, is also the destination for a LOT of two-faced left wingers who in their original home states voted for every liberal or 'progressive' piece of cra_ they could vote for. Then when, as it does, it all went to heck and the takers started exceeding the makers, and thus bleeding them dry, the 'good and kind' voters left the mess they amde, and moved here, to start voting the same and making THIS state a similar mess. They are closer to doing so than we like to let on - all it will take is a string of wins at the national level, amnesty for all, and that, will be that....you will have the 'privilege' of working for anyone who can wade a shallow river.......

Carlos Ponce

Two news articles to ponder:
"The blue wave that took over Harris County on Tuesday also hit neighboring Fort Bend County, where voters made historic demographic changes to county seats."
"Election officials in Fort Bend County said they had received a list of about 8,400 voters."
"Curioiser and Curiouser!"

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.