The Texas secretary of state has agreed to end a review of the voter rolls for supposed non-citizens that was flawed from the start.
The announcement Friday never should have been necessary. Not that we think voter rolls should not be examined, by statute they should.
Under the state statute, “to maintain the integrity of the state’s voter registration records, state law requires both the secretary of state and the local voter registrar to regularly review the voter registration lists and compare them with information received from other government agencies to ensure that the state is maintaining an accurate list. Voter registrars work to verify the accuracy of the lists on a regular basis.”
However, within days, the secretary of state’s office notified election offices statewide that its initial list might have been inaccurate.
So much for accuracy.
Adding to the original inaccuracy, many county voter registrar’s offices had already sent letters demanding people 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.
Within days, the list prompted three lawsuits by civil and voting rights groups, who claimed that the list targeted minority voters and naturalized citizens, and who described the review as an attempted voter purge.
Friday’s announcement to end the review came as a part of a settlement to end the lawsuits.
The original review had been mired in controversy since day one, largely because of the faulty methodology the state used to compile the list and the fanfare with which it was announced.
The secretary of state’s office matched voter rolls with data it requested from the Texas Department of Public Safety for people who at some point in the last few years told the department they were not citizens when they obtained a driver’s license or ID card. The review, however, did not account for people who might have become naturalized citizens since then and weren’t required to update the public safety department.
Voting is one of the very basic rights in the United States. The haphazard manner in which the review of voter rolls was done is unacceptable.
We agree with U.S. District Judge Fred Biery, who months earlier wrote the state’s review that the letters exemplified “the power of government to strike fear and anxiety to intimidate the least powerful among us.”
• Dave Mathews