Months after the Texas secretary of state’s office incorrectly flagged a “substantial number” of citizens in its attempt to question the citizenship status of 95,000 registered voters, acting Secretary of State David Whitley is out, reaffirming the decades-old adage that you don’t mess with Texas.
Whitley resigned on Monday, the Washington Post reported, just before the end of the last day of the Texas legislative session, during which he was not confirmed by the state senate. Texas’ former secretary of state, Rolando Pablos, resigned last December.
While Whitley’s resignation letter touted “working alongside the employees in the secretary of state’s office, county election officials, and representatives of our #1 trading partner, Mexico,” neither his notice, nor Gov. Greg Abbott’s acceptance letter, made any mention of Whitley’s office’s major misstep in its attempt to purge noncitizen voters from Texas’ voter rolls in January (Whitley is a former aide to the governor). From the Post, emphasis mine:
Whitley’s office had claimed that, of 95,000 suspected noncitizens, 58,000 had voted in at least one Texas election over the last 18 years. Letters sent to all those suspected noncitizens threatened to disenfranchise them unless they proved their citizenship within 30 days.
But there was a problem: Nearly a quarter of those identified as possible noncitizens were actually naturalized citizens ― a realization the secretary of state’s office made just four days after its initial announcement.
As the Texas Tribune notes, the office’s list led to three federal lawsuits and a congressional investigation into potential voting rights violations. Days before the end of the legislative session, voting, civil, and immigrants rights groups sent a letter to Texas Democrats asking them to “turn the page on the Whitley purge scandal by continuing to remain united against Mr. Whitley’s confirmation.”
In February, a federal judge ordered Texas to stop purging its rolls of the nearly 100,000 names it flagged. That month, all 12 Democratic state senators voted against seating Whitley, leaving Republicans without the two-thirds majority vote needed to confirm him. The state ended up abandoning the project as part of a legal settlement, leaving taxpayers to shell out for $450,000 in costs and attorney fees to the naturalized citizens that Whitley’s office had flagged and the civil rights groups that sued, the Tribune reported.
Whitley may be gone, but he was just a symptom of the anti-immigrant sentiment in Texas, leaving Abbott to replace him with someone just as willing to carry out such an agenda.