A federal judge Wednesday ordered state and local officials to stop, for now, sending letters demanding proof of citizenship from thousands of Texas voters, saying the government’s “ham-handed” and flawed attempt to find ineligible voters had caused fear and anxiety in vulnerable people.

U.S. District Court Judge Fred Biery‘s four-page order commanded acting Texas Secretary of State David Whitley to tell local election officials not to send letters of examination to people who appeared on a list of 98,000 registered voters that Whitley’s office had flagged as potential non-U.S. citizens on Jan. 25.

That list, and counties’ reactions to it, prompted three lawsuits seeking to block the state from removing voters from rolls. The groups that sued the government over the list said the citizenship checks would target minority groups and naturalized citizens.

Two of those lawsuits included Galveston County Voter Registrar Cheryl Johnson, whose office sent dozens of letters to registered voters in Galveston County asking them to prove their citizenship.

Johnson stopped sending the letters after the Secretary of State’s office revealed that thousands of names were incorrectly included on the first list.

The three lawsuits have been at the center of hearings in Biery’s San Antonio court over the past two weeks. After hearing witnesses, including the state officials in charge of rolling out the original list, Biery said it appeared the effort was a “solution looking for a problem.”

“Not withstanding good intentions, the road to a solution was inherently paved with flawed results, meaning perfectly legal naturalized Americans were burdened with what the court finds to be ham-handed and threatening correspondence from the state,” Biery wrote.

Biery’s order still permits counties to check the citizenship of registered voters, but they must do so without contacting that person, Biery wrote. In order to remove a person based on a citizenship review, officials must conclusively show that a person is ineligible and get permission from the court, he wrote.

OPEN MEETINGS

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Tuesday struck down part of the state’s Open Meetings Acts that prohibits certain kind of secret deliberations from happening between elected officials.

The law prohibited officials from meeting in small groups in ways that circumvent public meeting laws. Normally, if a quorum of an elected body is present, the meeting must be posted and open to the public.

The law prevented officials from organizing, for example, two small meetings of different members of the same body and then having a single person attend both meetings in order to come to a consensus.

The Court of Criminal Appeals, which is the state’s highest criminal court, said the open meetings laws was unconstitutionally vague.

The vote to strike down the law was 7-2.

Appeals court Judge Michelle Slaughter wrote in a concurring opinion that she believes the state’s current law violated the First Amendment.

“The state has not shown how criminalizing informal, initial discussions by a governmental body prior to a formal meeting is necessary to ensure its interest in transparency and public access to governmental deliberations,” Slaughter wrote.

NOTEBOOK

U.S. Rep. Randy Weber voted against a House of Representatives resolution seeking to rescind President Donald Trump‘s declaration of a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border. ... “My colleagues on the other side of the aisle are once again playing politics with a national crisis. Under any other president, this declaration wouldn’t be an issue,” Weber said. ... The resolution passed the House 245 to 182. ... There are 65 days until Election Day. ... There are 88 days until the end of the Texas legislative session.

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

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(27) comments

Emile Pope

Constitution 1, voter suppression 0...

Van Jones

Exactly!

Carlos Ponce

Wait for the appeal, Emile Jones.

Carlos Ponce

U.S. District Court Judge Fred Biery - a Bill Clinton appointee. Wait for the appeal. Texas law permits the state's Secretary of State to notify county voter registrars of possible registration of non-citizens.
80 have been removed from the voter rolls on their own volition as explained in the judge's decree. .."thus far approximately 80 have been identified as being ineligible to vote."
In the meantime, citizenship checks will continue but without the person's knowledge or input.
"Local officials can continue to find out if in fact someone is registered who is not a citizen, so long as it is done without communicating directly with any particular individual on the list. With reference to the new lists being prepared based on contemporaneous applications for driver licenses and applications to register to vote, the Secretary of State may proceed with the monthly rollouts. However, the Secretary of State is affirmatively ORDERED to advise and direct local voting officials not to send notice of examination letters nor remove voters from registration without prior approval of the Court."
https://texascivilrightsproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Voter-Purge-MTD-Order.pdf
The final chapter has not been written.
The idea this was voter suppression is ludicrous since the list in itself prevented NO ONE from voting nor in itself purged any one from the rolls. To suggest such shows a lack of understanding of the voting process from registration to casting a vote and Texas law. "Voter suppression" is not mentioned in the judge's edict.

Kelly Naschke

Emile with a lack of understanding....seems to be a day in day out thing....

Gary Miller

Carlos. What we need is "suppression of illegal voting". A fine for illegal voting equal to a years welfare payments would be a good start. Double it for progressive illegal voter recruitment members.

Carlos Ponce

Good idea, Gary!

Carlos Ponce

Clinton appointee U.S. District Court Judge Fred Biery wrote:"ham-handed and threatening correspondence from the state which did not politely ask for information but rather exemplifies the power of government to strike fear and anxiety and to intimidate the least powerful among us."
Here's the "threatening" correspondence:
"My office has received information concerning your registration to vote. Your registration status is being investigated because there is reason to believe you may not be a United States citizen. This information may have been provided by clerks of the court regarding individuals who were excused or disqualified from jury duty because they are not U.S. citizens and/or the Department of Public Safety ("DPS") for individuals possessing a Driver License or Personal Identification Card who DPS has identified are not citizens of the United States and/or other information derived through lawful means. You are now required to confirm your eligibility for registration by providing proof of citizenship to maintain your registration status. Proof of citizenship must be in a certified form of birth certificate, passport, or citizenship papers. If you fail to provide this proof of citizenship within 30 days from the date of this letter, your voter registration will be cancelled."
https://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/forms/bw1-12.pdf
"threatening"????? So says Judge Snowflake.

Emile Pope

I'm not required to do anything. If you believe that I am not a citizen, PROVE IT!!! Not my job to prove your point...

Carlos Ponce

I'm not required to do anything either, Emile. Why? I never indicated on any official documents that I was NOT an American citizen like those on the "list" did. Who's on the list?
Those "who were excused or disqualified from jury duty because they are not U.S. citizens and/or the Department of Public Safety ("DPS") for individuals possessing a Driver License or Personal Identification Card who DPS has identified are not citizens of the United States and/or other information derived through lawful means."
https://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/forms/bw1-12.pdf
If you never told any government entity that you were NOT a citizen then you're not on the list? Simple.
If you told the judge you cannot serve jury duty because you are not a citizen, you're on the list.
If you checked "No" when applying for a DPS Driver's license or Personal ID card indicating you're not a US Citizen, you're on the list.
See "Application for Texas Driver License or Identification Card"
Question 1: Yes No Are you a citizen of the United States?
https://www.dps.texas.gov/internetforms/Forms/DL-14A.pdf

Gary Miller

Emile. The records used to identify possible non citizens is the proof. Politely asked to provide documents proving your right to vote is an attempt to protect the value of your vote.

Richard Moore

Anyone that thinks for a minute that this was not an attempt at Voter Suppression is grasping at straws. The “hacks” involved should be held accountable – as I believe the “acting S.O.S. will be and, at election time our County administrator. I have first hand knowledge of the inability of DPS to effectively manage and utilize the data they collect. As the facts in this case are clarified, it will become clear that those Hacks knew the “Lists” they were creating had significant discrepancies. While the “law” allows an inquiry regarding a voter’s qualifications to vote, such action should only be pursued in instances where there is a reasonable belief that the target of such an inquiry did not meet the criteria – the Hacks KNEW that significant numbers of those on the list were or could be citizens, yet they opted to attempt intimidation! Hopefully continuing litigation on this will provide for appropriate punishment!

“Voter suppression is a strategy used to influence the outcome of an election by discouraging or preventing specific groups of people from voting. It is distinguished from political campaigning in that campaigning attempts to change likely voting behavior by changing the opinions of potential voters through persuasion and organization.
Voter suppression - Wikipedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter_suppression”

George Croix

No straws in my hand, Richard.
The only way there can be 'voter suppression' is SELF suppression. Those 'specific groups' you mention as if they are too sensitive to even be named are evidently, according to you and a lot of others, so incapable of managing their own lives and dealing with simple issues that any interference or obstacle to their daily routine is cause for federal judge to step in.
One the one hand, they are called independent minded citizens just like anyone else, my personal opinion always, but on the other they are so conflicted and easily intimidated that any effort to have them do the same thing that anyone renting a car or getting a motel room must do is too challenging, and 'suppresses' them.
Bunk.
The REAL voter suppression occurs every time even ONE vote is cast by a person not legally eligible to do so, because it cancels out, suppresses, a legitimate vote.

THAT said, it WAS a ham handed and bungled effort to clean up the voter roles.
I urge the State and Local parties involved in election proceedings to get their act straight, and get the rolls cleaned up in a manner that not even the most ideologically driven 'judge' could challenge and then prosecute the heck out of anyone found to have intentionally...intentionally...voted illegally......and work with those who made honest mistakes to get them legally registered.
But, PLEASE, for a BIG change, stop acting like one's skin color or place of origin is a reason to excuse having some sense of civic responsibility.....

Carlos Ponce

Richard Moore posts, "Anyone that thinks for a minute that this was not an attempt at Voter Suppression is grasping at straws.".
"discouraging or preventing specific groups of people from voting" Unless you mean discouraging or preventing non-citizens from voting your claim that the citizenship verification is voter suppression is BULLSTUFF!
Find me one person, JUST ONE citizen who feels he or she feels discouraged or prevented from voting. You can't.
Richard posts, "While the 'law' allows an inquiry regarding a voter’s qualifications to vote, such action should only be pursued in instances where there is a reasonable belief that the target of such an inquiry did not meet the criteria..." Didn't you BOTHER to read the SOS letter I provided?????
There IS reasonable belief because each person on the list indicated they were not a citizen, either to a judge when summoned for jury duty or on DPS application for a license or identification card. THEY SAID or INDICATED they WERE NOT CITIZENS!!!!!!! You must be a citizen to vote, DUH!

Richard Moore

Not sure what you are grasping at then - The courts will determine if Voter Suppression occurred or not. The Hacks behind this though - SOS and AG KNEW before sending it out that the list would contain citizens when it was issued and did not care. Wait for the final judgements. Not sure what letter "you" provided. I have seen much of the drivel from both sets of Hacks and it just convinces me more that they knew that they had inaccurate data and were simply looking for an effective vehicle to intimidate.

Carlos Ponce

No mention of "voter suppression" in U.S. District Court Judge Fred Biery's ruling. . I hope you read the decision.
"The courts will determine if Voter Suppression occurred or not." It's not there, Richard.

Diane Turski

Note that Comrade Weber is conveniently not mentioning the unconstitutional attempt that Trump's (non) emergency declaration is actually a power grab the President is making to circumvent Congress' Constitutional power of the purse to attempt to fund his vanity wall. Let's be clear that Comrade Weber voted to expand the powers of the President against what the constitution has mandated.

George Croix

Then the other 31 existing, in place now, national emergency declarations are ALSO unconstitutional and abuses of power.

Some past Presidents got a lotta 'splainin' to do......

George Croix

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8E_zMLCRNg

Nothing new there.

Just like a relief valve at the refinery....it pops off then re-seats and nobody hears anything from it again until the next time it's pressure gets up to high....[beam][beam][beam][beam][whistling][rolleyes]

George Croix

ps:
I should have added that I would hope that Pres. trump DROPS the National Emergency Declaration for the southern border and takes the 4.5 Billion or so bucks he can perfectly legally get without that declaration and without any further input from Congressional idiots who say 'walls don't work".
He can always declare later if things get even worse and more barriers are needed faster.
BUT it's a step towards a never ending game of one-upmanship for each Pres. to declare an emergency for whatever his Party is heavily invested in, even though this IS an emergency, IMO, and not ideological.
The opposition Party has shown ZERO willingness to use reason rather than ideology, and eventually they will run it all again....
We've got a nut right now who's become their de facto leader by virtue of most MSM airtime who already wants to ban all private health insurance, all cars and trucks, and rebuild every single building in America to 'green' standards, along with dozens of other idiotic proposals, and that whole bunch is so vested in 'resisting' reality thay just might declare fossil fuels elimination a 'national emergency'... at which time they will be exactly right, but in the exactly opposite direction...
Can't fix them, so why tempt them.
DROP the border NE declaration, Mr. President, and take the several billions and build all you can and tell Congress at that point to go pound sand.....

Carlos Ponce

Diane, you don't believe there is a crisis. I recommend you ASK those who work at the border (CPB and ICE), ask the families of those slain by illegals, ask the children who are taken through non-port of entry places along the border for child sex trafficking, ask those whose family members were harmed by drugs smuggled along non-walled borders.
Nice of you to call Randy Weber,"comrade" defined as "A person who shares one's interests or activities; a friend or companion". We consider Diane Turski a "comrade" too![beam]

TR Galan

It'll be the day when Mr. Ponce publishes a coherent and positioned viewpoint instead of boorish references as fact from sources he’s previously cited as 'Fake News'. Finally, the US District has put some sense into the Secretary of State to cease the flawed process of identifying ineligible voters. There are a multitude of reasons for ineligible voters, among those, poorly thought out processes of State agencies themselves. No one advocates illegal voting, and the topic is not new news, but it’s in the news forefront given the current climate of building a border wall and extreme views from both the left and right. Mr. Ponce would do well to instead focus on the ineptitude of the Secretary of State for releasing a poorly researched ineligible voter list in lieu of outwardly denying those seeking a better life. Where, after all, did our families come from?

Gary Miller

MR. Galan. Most of our families immigrated LEGALLY. The illegal and legal don't have the same national value. Individual value YES but not according to law.

Richard Moore

Not sure how this relates - “The illegal and legal don't have the same national value.“ No one was accused of being here “illegally”!

Carlos Ponce

Correct Richard. Legal documents and judge referrals only mentioned "non-citizens".

Carlos Ponce

TR Galan, my position is a "coherent and positioned viewpoint" and document from government sources. Why the inaccuracies on the SOS list? They asked the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to confirm those names but Liberal Federal workers for that agency did not want to share that information with the State of Texas. I'd already looked into it, posted it. You need to keep up!

Jarvis Buckley

Emile, Emile, Emile

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