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Voters? Check. Locals provide proof of citizenship as judge puts halt to review

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, March 9, 2019

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A citizenship check for any illegal voters in Wise County has not resulted in anyone being dropped from the voter rolls, nor has it shown that anyone voted illegally.

The check was done at the request of Texas Secretary of State David Whitley, who in January sent a letter to all voter registrars with a list of 95,000 registered voters who were flagged as possibly non-citizens who are ineligible to vote. Whitley said the names on the list are people who had provided the Department of Public Safety with a form of identification – such as a work visa – that showed they were not a citizen when obtaining a driver’s license or identification card.

Within days, Whitley’s office began to pull back on the original 95,000 number, saying the list contained at least 20,000 names that shouldn’t have been included.

For Wise County, that shrunk the number from the original 70-plus voters to 56. Wise County Elections Administrator and Voter Registrar Sabra Srader said those 56 people were sent examination letters, asking for proof of U.S. citizenship in order to remain on the voter rolls.

Those on the list were instructed to produce the evidence within 30 days.

Before any action could be taken, a group of Latino voters filed a lawsuit that alleged the state violated their constitutional rights by singling them out for investigation because they were foreign born.

On Feb. 27, a federal judge in San Antonio ordered counties to not purge suspected non-citizen voters from the rolls based on the specific request issued by Whitley’s office in January. The order did not prevent voter registrars from performing their daily maintenance of the voter lists.

Srader said her office received 30 responses to the letters sent out in Wise County. Twenty-nine of those responses included proof that the person had since become a naturalized citizen, thus making them eligible voters.

Srader said one person on the list had recently died just before the letters were sent out but before her office was notified of the death.

Of the other 26, many of those letters are being returned as undeliverable at the posted address. Srader said it is likely those individuals have moved out of Wise County and haven’t registered in their new county.

“We had a really good rate of return, and none of these people will be canceled anyway,” Srader said.

She said that for the most part, the people were gracious and understanding.

“We have thanked them all for any inconvenience. This is just a list we had to work off of from the state, and they were very gracious and provided us with what we needed to know,” she said.

The state put local election officials in a difficult position, she said, because they were working off a list she and other local election officials can’t access.

“I don’t have access to the naturalization records in Austin, whereas the state does, so that’s why the federal court has ordered us not to cancel any of these voters,” she said.

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