Texas Settles Non-Citizen Voter Purge Fight With Latinos

(Bloomberg) -- Texas has agreed to scrap a list of 98,000 suspected non-citizen voters, thousands of whom became naturalized U.S. citizens before they voted, to settle a court challenge brought by Latino groups who said a threatened purge unfairly disenfranchised law-abiding immigrants.

The state will discard the list of individuals who identified as non-citizen legal immigrants when they applied for drivers’ licenses during the past 20 years and then later registered to vote, according to statements issued by several groups who challenged the measure.

State election officials admitted they failed to properly cross-reference the list with databases of naturalized citizens, which caused county registers to challenge these individuals’ citizenship and jeopardize their right to vote. At least 25,000 naturalized citizens were sent letters in January demanding they prove their citizenship or their voter registrations would be cancelled.

President Donald Trump and Texas Governor Greg Abbott fueled the controversy by touting the data as proof of “rampant” illegal voting.

Texas also referred about 58,000 of the suspected non-citizen voters to law enforcement officials for potential prosecution, but challengers won a court order blocking the state’s voter purge campaign in February.

U.S. District Judge Fred Biery ordered the state in February to stop sending letters demanding proof of citizenship from the people, calling them “ham-handed and threatening.” The San Antonio judge said the state’s initiative was “a solution looking for a problem,” adding that evidence presented in the case proves there “is no widespread voter fraud” in Texas.

Under terms of a settlement document provided by the Texas League of United Latin American Citizens, the state will coordinate with the Latino and voters-rights groups to ensure its methods don’t unfairly target naturalized citizens.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton confirmed that a settlement has been reached with all parties in a court filing Friday afternoon. The settlement must be approved by Biery.

The case is Texas League of United Latin American Citizens v David Whitley, 5:19-074, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas (San Antonio).

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