Civil rights groups suing the state of Texas and various county voter registrars are justified in their fear that U.S. citizens will be purged from voter rolls through a dubious list Secretary of State David Whitley recently tossed out.

The groups shouldn’t settle for a simple injunction against the citizenship challenges Whitley kicked off, however. They should demand more, and the more they should demand might just put an end to this long-running political farce.

The groups are right to argue the citizenship challenges Whitley’s list spawned target Hispanic and Asian Texans. The Daily News has requested the list Galveston County used to send letters demanding people prove their citizenship or be dropped from voter rolls, but has yet to receive it.

All the same, we’re fairly confident it won’t contain a lot of Smiths, or Whitleys, or Abbotts, or Johnsons, or Taylors, or Middletons, or Paxtons, or Ivanovs, or Smirnovs, even though people with those family names could very well be here illegally from Canada or Europe; maybe even Russia.

The groups are justified in their fears for all sorts of mundane reasons. The Secretary of State’s Office already has admitted some number of the people on its list of 95,000 are legal citizens who should never have been named as suspect in the first place.

Almost half of the letters Galveston County mailed went to such people. It’s worth noting that despite the great importance state leaders have attempted to inject into this effort, the letters went out as regular mail — not registered or certified — and in generic county envelopes.

If the state’s grand vetting is allowed to continue, challenge letters will inevitably be mailed to U.S. citizens. Some of that mail will never get to the intended party; it will get lost or they will have moved. Some of the U.S. citizens who receive the letters will never open them, thinking they are junk mail. Some U.S. citizens will open the letters, toss them into stuff-to-do piles and never get around to dealing with them.

All of which will result in more legal voters than illegal voters being purged from the rolls, which, of course, is the whole point of the exercise.

When he rolled this bugaboo out, Whitley said 58,000 of the people on his list had voted in at least one election since 1996.

Texas Republican leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, quickly connected the numbers to voter fraud and promised swift investigation and prosecutions.

There are several objective problems the old GOP saw about voter fraud, though, especially in the context at hand.

For one thing, Republicans have won most of the elections in Texas since 1996. So, if large numbers of illegal voters have been influencing Texas elections, they must have been voting for Republicans.

That would be an interesting line of inquiry, except for the hokum at the core of it all. Even if all 58,000 people on Whitley’s list had cast an illegal vote in at least one election in the past 23 years, which has about zero probability of being the case, it would have not mattered at all.

The Texas GOP is not worried about the tiny fractions of fraudulent ballots that might have been cast in past elections; it’s worried about the large numbers of valid ballots that might be cast in future elections.

The GOP can read a chart plotting demographic change, and it saw what happened in Harris County, for example, during the midterm elections when virtually every Republican officeholder lost.

The party is worried about the future, and that worry very well might be justified.

While it’s tempting to argue that rather than designing a political party that is more inclusive and representative, Texas Republicans are attempting to engineer a registered electorate that is less so.

That theory makes little sense either, however, given the small numbers at play here. Even if all 95,000 people on Whitley’s initial list were purged from the rolls, it wouldn’t change the trend.

The only rationale apparent is even darker than attempting to disenfranchise minority voters. It’s that the fraud mongers among Texas Republicans want to undermine the credibility of the electoral process in general; to infect it with a persistent notion that if an election or election cycle goes badly for them it was not because of their platform, policy of performance, but because of fraud.

That, of course, is exactly how President Donald Trump has attempted to explain his minority share of popular vote in 2016.

It’s hard to imagine anything more un-American or more corrosive to democracy.

The civil rights groups attempting to get this issue before a federal judge shouldn’t stop with an injunction merely halting the ham-fisted effort now underway. Doing that will just feed the conspiracy theories. They should demand as a term of settlement that the burden of proof be shifted from the voter to the state, and that state be required to investigate each name on whatever list it has. The state should be required after that investigation to present to the federal court a full, detailed and verifiable accounting of what it found.

In other words, state leaders peddling fraud should be required, or at least challenged in that public forum, to put up, or shut up.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206;

(44) comments

Connie Schnitger

I agree completely.

Carlos Ponce

It's called the RULE OF LAW, Michael A. Smith. Did the following happen? "ALL PERSONS NAMED ON THE LIST ARE TO BE REMOVED FROM VOTER ROLLS IMMEDIATELY!" No. All the state asks is verification for their records. The Secretary of State's office knew their records needed updating. If proper documentation cannot be produced then further measures will be taken by the counties.
"The Daily News has requested the list Galveston County used to send letters.."
What would you do with such a list? Publish it with no regards to the privacy of those on the list? Now that would be WRONG. All the Daily News requires for its readers is the final outcome. "Our list contained X names. Y number produced proper documentation and will continue on the voting rolls. Z number could not and further investigation will be needed. No names to be purged until the legal conclusion."
Do you really want the original list? The County asking for those on the list to provide documentation does not violate Civil Rights. The Daily News publishing those names would violate the rights of those named.
Verification is not a "farce". It is not "hokum". It follows the rule of law:
Sec. 11.002. QUALIFIED VOTER. (a) In this code, "qualified voter" means a person who: 2) is a United States citizen;

Carlos Ponce

Sec. 18.068. COMPARISON OF INFORMATION REGARDING INELIGIBILITY. (a) The secretary of state shall quarterly compare the information received under Section 16.001 of this code and Section 62.113, Government Code, to the statewide computerized voter registration list. If the secretary determines that a voter on the registration list is deceased or has been excused or disqualified from jury service because the voter is not a citizen, the secretary shall send notice of the determination to the voter registrar of the counties considered appropriate by the secretary.

Ralph Mcmorris

Brilliant editorial! If you are on Whitney's purge list you are guilty until you prove your innocence!

Carlos Ponce

"guilty", "innocence" ?????
No one has been arrested. No one has been charged with a crime. The list by itself doesn't charge anyone with a crime. The list is an inquiry to update the state's information. Now if a voter registrant cannot produce documentation of citizenship then ACCORDING TO THE LAW his or her name will be purged from the voter rolls. No harm done. But if the voter registrant actually VOTED as a non-citizen then legal action can be taken according to the statutes of the State of Texas.

Ray Taft

Mr. Michael A. Smith wrote: “That, of course, is exactly how President Donald Trump has attempted to explain his minority share of popular vote in 2016.” Get over it Smith. Trump won, despite the Democrats’ voter fraud that everyone knows happened. And by the way, President Donald Trump is doing a great job Making America Great Again!

As Smith penned his opinion, Mexican officials were helping transport and safeguard more than 1,700 illegal migrants to an unsecured part of the Texas border. Smith should be concerned about safeguarding the vote for Texans, which is what our state government is doing, not for those illegals trying to sneak into Texas.

Carlos Ponce

Ponder the following:
Galveston County gets its jury pool names from the list of registered voters.
If a non-citizen is summoned he or she usually identifies as a such and is dismissed from jury duty and their names are purged from the voting rolls.
I wrote "usually".
What if a non-citizen did not identify himself or herself and was impaneled as a jury member? Would the judge declare a mistrial even though the trial occurred years before? And what of the accused? Could he or she then file a lawsuit if the trial led to imprisonment?
Looks like having PROPER voter rolls is necessary. Check the names of those who are questionable as determined by the Texas Secretary of State. It's the LAW.

Alan Waters

I might be mistaken, but when I went to vote, I had to show identification, even though I was on the voter roles and the poll workers knew me. Should I be offended, as my father and his parents were born "in Indian territory", or just be proud that I live in a state that, at least tries, to hold valid elections?

Emile Pope

Wouldn't matter if you had your ID if you were purged from the voting list because you didn't respond to a letter you never remember receiving...

Carlos Ponce

"you didn't respond to a letter you never remember receiving..."
I believe the notification was sent by CERTIFIED MAIL requiring a signature.
I never got the letter!
Well is that your signature saying you received it?
Uh, uh, uh.......

Paul Hyatt

Why is it that the democrats and the MSM hate the idea of having to show your ID before you vote? The only reason I can think of it because they want illegals to be able to vote for the demoncrats. You all claim to want to follow the law but from what I see it is only the laws and pieces of the Constitution that you all want to follow all else you throw in the trash can.....

George Croix

So, summarizing, EVERYBODY who wants to vote should be able to do so without that pesky 'citizens only' thing coming into play - we just do it on the honor system.....laws and rules we don't like should be ignored....
And, it's all Republican desire to 'disenfranchise' voters, driven in part by Donald Trump .....

This is good to know.
Next time somebody asks me for ID when I go to cash a check, I'll just say I read in the GDN where it's 'disenfranchising' and a political plot to ask me to verify I am who I claim I am, so THERE...take that, you suppressor.........

I look forward to the balanced opposing editorial from the staff member who does that......

Jim Forsythe

The following sums up the problem, the state does not have the resources to do there job, and they want the counties to do it for them
"Johnson in Galveston County says she has no other way to determine whether the people on her list are citizens other than sending them a notice that starts the 30-day clock for them to provide proof to avoid getting kicked off the rolls.
The states response.
“They said, ‘Use other resources,’ and I said, ‘What resources are that?’” Johnson said. “They said, ‘Well, see if you have any other ways to determine the information.’ I really don’t.”.
They are passing it down to the counties, and not doing the job that they should be doing.
Someone did not do their due diligence, before sending the list to the counties. Its the secretary of state who is charged with this task. By pushing it down to the counties they are requiring the counties to use their resources to do the job the state is charged with.By relying on source code 64 from the DPS, the state did not do their job. Does the state not have access to a list that has all citizen of the USA on it. If not , that is part of the problem. It should not be hard to take two list and make sure that if a person is on both list,they should not be on the list to purge them.
Examples of what just happen.
Remi Garza, elections administrator in Cameron County. He had originally received a list with just more than 1,600 people to review. When someone from the secretary of state’s office called on Tuesday, Garza was told that weeding out applications labeled as “source code 64” — the code that indicates the origin of the application was a DPS office — would remove “well over” 1,500 names from his list, leaving him with just 30 individuals to investigate.
By using source code 64 the list is a lot longer than needed. This is the reason that using the list is not correct.
And there was reason to be careful with the “lawful presence list.” Driver’s licenses don’t have to be renewed for several years. In between renewals, Texans aren’t required to notify DPS about a change in citizenship status. That means many of the people on the list could have become citizens and registered to vote without DPS knowing.
Other states learned the hard way that basing similar checks on driver’s license data was risky.
In Florida, officials in 2012 first drew up a list of about 180,000 possible noncitizens. It was later culled to about 2,600 names, but even then that data was found to include errors. Ultimately, only about 85 voters were nixed from the rolls.
Around the same time, officials in Colorado started with a list of 11,805 individuals on the voter rolls who they said were noncitizens when they got their driver’s licenses. In the end, state officials said they had found about 141 noncitizens on the rolls — 35 of whom had a voting history — but those still needed to be verified by local election officials.

George Croix

Resources.....ah, yes.....
If only we weren't spending many millions a year of State resources on illegals, we'd have enough resources to properly determine whether any people not legally allowed to vote were registered to do so.....
And around and around we go.............

Carlos Ponce

"The following sums up the problem, the state does not have the resources to do there(SIC) job, and they want the counties to do it for them."
Apparently you did not read the Statutes concerning removing names from the voter rolls.
"the secretary shall send notice of the determination to the voter registrar of the counties considered appropriate by the secretary."
The Letter of the Law: COUNTIES, Jim, COUNTIES!
"and they want the counties to do it for them." BECAUSE THE LAW SAYS SO, Jim!

Jim Forsythe

If all you say is true, why has the 95,000 been reduced? It's because the state did part of the job after the list was sent out, instead of before. The "the secretary shall send notice of the determination to the voter registrar of the counties considered appropriate by the secretary." is my point, they did not check against a USA citizen list. If they do not have one, we have a bigger problem. To check, all it would take is comparing both list to make sure someone is not eligible to vote, before they send it to the counties. You now have 254 counties that determine how to qualify someone, instead of one group at the state level. This could lead to difference in the way someone is processed for the list.

Carlos Ponce

So obvious, Jim! The Secretary of State's office did what it could to verify citizenship status before the lists were sent out but some entities were hesitant. THE VERY ACT of sending out the lists caused them to release the earlier requested information.

Jim Forsythe

Gorge, to me it's about the state wanting the county to do their job.
They try and pass off their reasonably.
The resources are already in place, all the state has to do is use them.

George Croix

You may be right, Jim.
You've been right before......[beam][beam]

Although, I see NO net effect difference between the State or the County getting sued by 'rights groups' who, obviously, want the right to vote to include anybody who can walk, bike, run, ride a horse, or get wheel-barrowed to a polling place.....
I left out drive, because in a decade we won't have any fossil fuels, if the people voting for folks promising 'free stuff' for them get into office in sufficient numbers....
No food, either, but, who needs that.....


Jim Forsythe

George, it has nothing about being sued. If the state would eliminate all the people that should not be on the list that they can before sending to the counties, the counties would not have to spend as much time and money on finding out who should be on the list.
Just sending out the letters probably cost us several dollars each letter, which could be avoided if they state would run the names first against USA citizens list. I do not know if they can use E-verify, as it is illegal for an employer to use it just to check if someone is here legal .
Remember when Amoco wanted us to go on direct deposit, they told us how much it cost them, for each check they issued. If I remember right it was about $4.

My reply to Carlos below, talks about why we are being sued.

George Croix

We're back to that shortage of funds thing, again, Jim.
Not an excuse for poor performance, but certainly a factor....
So, the state 'runs the names against a US citizens list', presumably a birth certificates data base, as Social security numbers are no longer secure, and, then what. Does the hollering start all over about a potential voter proving they are, well, themselves, before they can vote?
Round and round she goes........

By any other name, it's the same old identity and racial politics.
'Voter suppression'....
Only for anyone too disinterested, too dumb or too lazy...imo.......

Carlos Ponce

"The resources are already in place, all the state has to do is use them."
So Jim still won't read the statutes REQUIRING the Secretary of State to hand over this task to the counties?????
Yes the state has the resources BUT NOT the LEGAL authority of doing so.

Jim Forsythe

Reducing the list should have been done before the list was sent to the counties. Names have been removed after by the state, which should have already have been done. Should have had the list correct to the best they could, before sending it out to the counties.
In Harris County, almost 18,000 names were removed from an initial list of potential non-citizens on the voter rolls that was distributed by the Texas Secretary of State’s Office. That’s more than half of the almost 30,000 names in the county that were originally on the list.
The Texas Tribune contacted 13 of the 15 counties with the most registered voters. They found that Galveston was the only one of those 15 planning to immediately send out letters to voters on the secretary of state’s list. A big part of the reluctance to move more quickly may have to do with questions about the legality of removing voters on the list from county rolls.
One of the reasons for the lawsuits is the state did not reduce the numbers first, but just complied a list with many that should not have been on it.One of the reasons for the lawsuits is below.
Joseph Fishkin is a law professor at the University of Texas School of Law. One of his areas of expertise is election law. He says the state’s actions could violate federal laws on voter registration, including the National Voter Registration Act. He says questioning the citizenship of large numbers of voters could also violate federal civil rights law. “This is pretty similar to what Florida tried to do,” Fishkin says. He says Florida’s voter roll purge landed the state in federal court. Fishkin says the state can verify the accuracy of its voter rolls in ways that don’t hinge on questioning the citizenship of those who are challenged.

Carlos Ponce

"Reducing the list should have been done before the list was sent to the counties."
They tried Jim. But Liberal officials would not cooperate. We are talking about Liberal Austin, Texas in Liberal Travis County.
[Joseph] "Fishkin says that applications to register to vote include a question about citizenship – no one can register to vote without asserting that he or she is a citizen. He says few people choose to commit a federal crime by answering untruthfully. He says most people on Texas’ list are probably naturalized citizens who were ineligible to vote before they attained that citizenship."
So Fishkin says a "few people choose to commit a federal crime by answering untruthfully". So why should the state and counties NOT make an effort to find out who the "few" are?

Jim Forsythe

Secretary of State David Whitley — a Gov. Greg Abbott appointee is not a Liberal official .He is the man driving this. When it says the state and counties should make a effort, that's what the state should have done. Because the state did not reduce the numbers before they sent the list to the counties, we are being sued. What Liberal state official stop the comparing of list? You keep saying it's not the states responsibility, but who put the list together? The state did, and nothing stopped them from checking to see if the ones on the list were a legal citizen. It is easer for them to do, versus the county,and may have prevented us from being sued.
A list of naturalized citizens is not hard for the state to obtain, if they do not have one..
You say they tried, but if they would have tried, they would have compared list, unless David Whitley can not control his office and his employees. Any office I worked in, you did what the boss wanted you to do.

After all this Carlos, how many do you think will have violated the law?

George Croix

If any, how many is too many, JIm...?

There's already enough of an effort going around to declare that one can be slightly pregnant......

George Croix

Personally, I hope they find NONE.
But, I suspect a thousand, or a million could be found, and that would be downplayed and called 'suppression' by a sympathetic media, and a codependent population of the usual suspects....

Carlos Ponce

Jim asks, "What Liberal state official stop the comparing of list?"
The Obama holdovers in DC.

Jim Forsythe

Carlos, how does DC stop Texas from having access to the list?. We have had Republicans in charge of the state for many years and they are still not able to access the list of citizens? If they are able, and my guess they are, why did they not use it?

Jim Forsythe

George, they started out with 95,000 on the list and it drop to 58,000. This was after some counties started sending out notices. It the same as the thousands that are Governor said were doing illegal voting about 2 years ago. The big numbers look impressive, but the outcome does not. If the pass record is any indicator the number will be close to 100 before the final look, and then it will be about 20. Will that outcome justify the amount of money spent? With computers used in the right manor, 95,000 would never have been the starting point. Now it more than likely will cost us Millions of dollars when it all said and done. If a little more effort was used on the front end, we may not have been in the mess we are with the lawsuits.
A better use of the money would have make sure that all polling places have a driver license reader. If a person is not the citizen list, they could have been flagged and given a provisional ballot until it is resolved..

Carlos Ponce

"A better use of the money would have make sure that all polling places have a driver license reader."
Galveston County requires such at all polling places. Works fine even with FREE DPS issued Voter ID cards. But then Liberals demanded alternative methods other than driver's licenses and voter ID cards. People are allowed to fill out a Reasonable Impediment Declaration with supporting documents:
Birth certificate, utility bill, bank statement, Government check, paycheck, Voter Registration Certificate with Government document displaying your name and address.
I thought it was funny that many drove to the polling place and yet could not produce a valid driver's license.

Carlos Ponce

Jim asks, "Carlos, how does DC stop Texas from having access to the list?."
Who has the list of Naturalized US Citizens? U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) nee INS - Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Who works at USCIS? Federal workers in the Washington DC area most of whom are DEMOCRATS.
One would think a state like Texas could just send their list of questionable voters to the USCIS and ask them to verify citizenship. They asked but the bureaucrats refused citing PRIVACY concerns.
What they have access to are ARCHIVED records prior to 1972.

Carlos Ponce

Jim posts, "George, they started out with 95,000 on the list and it drop to 58,000."
Both numbers are accurate but refer to slightly different things.
95,000 were registered to vote, 58,000 of them actually voted.the number did not DROP. Both were given by state officials and the GCDN on January 25, 2019:
"Texas officials say they identified about 58,000 non-citizens since 1996 who voted and another 37,000 who registered to vote but didn't."
Each number will drop with verification of citizenship. That's supposed to happen.

Jim Forsythe

If Travis County has access to the ones that were at a naturalization ceremony in Bexar or Travis County, the state does. If they do not have a list,Travis county can show them how to get one. If the state wants a list from DC they can get one. All is needed is a order from the President.
I have no idea how many Democrats work in DC vs. Republicans, do you. If you do, where did the info come from. Or is it just another talking point that no one knows the numbers, but sounds good when making excuses ?
Travis County
Monday, Jan. 28, 2019: The Secretary of State’s office sent Travis County a list of 4,558 voter records that they identified as possible non‐citizens
In just one day, new info was all of a sudden at the states office.?
Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019: The Secretary of State’s office informed Travis County by phone that the file included valid voter registration applications submitted to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) by citizens.

By Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, Travis county had reduced the numbers from 4.558 to 2,951 by using methods the state has access to..
Non‐citizen list provided to Travis County by the Secretary of State 4,558
Voters removed after verification that a valid application was submitted to DPS by a citizen 645
Voters removed after verification that a valid application was submitted at a naturalization ceremony in Bexar or Travis County 868
Duplicate voters removed 94
Records still being researched 2,951

"The Secretary of State’s Office already has admitted some number of the people on its list of 95,000 are legal citizens who should never have been named as suspect in the first place." This was new information that came from where, or is it just that 95,000 is more impressive than 58,000.
Just as Michael said "The state should be required after that investigation to present to the federal court a full, detailed and verifiable accounting of what it found." if they do not do this ,all they are doing is trying to get press over a issue.

Carlos Ponce

" I have no idea how many Democrats work in DC vs. Republicans, do you."
Really Jim? One can make an EDUCATED guess based on election results.
November 2016 Presidential Election results for the District of Columbia:
Hillary Clinton Democrat 282,830 90.9%
Donald J. Trump Republican 12,723 4.1%
Others Independent 6,551 2.1%
Gary Johnson Libertarian 4,906 1.6%
Jill Stein D.C. Statehood Green 4,258 1.4%
Chances are most who work in DC are Democrat or vote that way, wouldn't you think? But not all who work in DC live and work in DC. Many reside and vote in Northern Virginia. Guess what? Those counties also vote predominantly Democrat.

Jim Forsythe

Being able to access the list has nothing to do with party. If they do not have a list, Travis county can show them how to get one. If the state wants a list from DC they can get one. All is needed is a order from the President.
If Secretary of State David Whitley and Gov. Greg Abbott are not able to get the information, we have the wrong people in office. This is not hard to do, as Travis County was able to do it, without excuses.

Carlos Ponce

"Travis county can show them how to get one"
County is the key word. the Texas statutes says the Texas Secretary of State MUST relay the names to the individual counties. Why do you INSIST that the Texas Secretary of State disobey the law?
" the secretary shall send notice of the determination to the voter registrar of the counties"
counties, counties, counties counties, counties

Jim Forsythe

"Check the names of those who are questionable as determined by the Texas Secretary of State" does not mean that the Secretary of State can not do a complete job, before sending the list to the counties.
By running the list that the state complies from DPS and naturalization ceremonies in Texas, against the ones that they suspect of doing wrong, would be much easier than each county trying to do it on there own. Also, who is going to check that each county does this correctly, or did they actually do or just said they did. If the state runs the lists, there is no question that is was done consistently all over the state. Less chance for lawsuits.
DO you really think, each and every county is going to do it the exactly the same way? We could end up with 254 different ways of determining if a person should be able to vote.

If the state would have reduced the list as much as possible, we may have not been sued. This would have prevented some of the lawsuits, as this is the basis for some.
The state has no reason not to have a list of people, that has been thru a naturalization ceremony in Texas.

Carlos Ponce

"We could end up with 254 different ways of determining if a person should be able to vote."
Not really, Jim. In the end it comes down to providing or finding proper documentation. Travis County has far more names to check than Galveston County.

Emile Pope

Why don't they use certified mail to deliver a letter that could potentially take away a person's right to vote? Because that's exactly what they want to do and it would stop it from happening. Voter suppression plain and simple...

Carlos Ponce

Emile, no voter suppression is occurring. The "letter" does not take away any CITIZEN'S right to vote. The law states only citizens have a right to vote in Texas elections. If a NON-CITIZEN voted then they violated the law. A non-citizen HAS NO RIGHT TO VOTE in the State of Texas. So how can they take away something they never legally had?
" take away a person's right to vote" - Ridiculous!

Emile Pope

Garbage. If they have evidence that they voted illegally, prosecute them. If they have evidence that they aren't citizens PRESENT IT!!! Don't just send them a letter that they may not even get telling them that they'll lose their right to vote unless they prove their citizenship. Strom Thurmond would be proud of these efforts on voter suppression...

Carlos Ponce

"If they have evidence that they aren't citizens PRESENT IT!!!"
How do you think they got the list? They looked at what records they have and the question was asked and the person indicated "Not a Citizen". Time has passed and the SOS office knew that status may have changed hence the notification to the counties and the letters sent out to verify current status.
There is NO voter suppression.

George Croix

There's SELF-suppression......
Nobody forces anybody to listen to and adopt silly excuses for why they should feel put upon and 'disenfranchised'.....

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