Emails surface showing Texas Governor attempted voter purge with bogus data

Did Abbott want a massive voter purge?
Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Featured image by Gage Skidmore, license CC SA 2.0 via Flickr

In January, Texas governor Greg Abbott (R) created plenty of voter purge hysteria when he announced those who commit voter fraud should be charged, The New Civil Rights Movement reports. Abbott’s Attorney General Ken Paxton had just posted a “voter fraud alert” on Twitter, and Abbott used that to fear-monger.

“Thanks to Attorney General Paxton and the Secretary of State for uncovering and investigating this illegal vote registration,” Abbott tweeted. “I support prosecution where appropriate. The State will work on legislation to safeguard against these illegal practices.”

In the advisory, Paxton notes that the Texas Secretary of State’s office supposedly discovered about 95,000 registered voters in the state weren’t U.S. citizens, and out of that number, 58,000 had voted recently, writes The New Civil Rights Movement’s David Badash.

But as he notes, this was completely wrong.

“It was all false,” he writes. “Maybe even a lie. It perhaps could even be called fraud.”

And, thanks to emails from Abbott’s office that have now come to light, The Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday:

“Gov. Greg Abbott’s office was a driving force in the state’s program to purge nearly 100,000 suspected non-U.S. citizens from Texas’ voter rolls.”

In the months after the false claims were made, the program that would have disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters was abolished thanks to lawsuits which challenged the program. The lawsuits were ultimately settled, and officials from the Secretary of State’s office admitted they knowingly used flawed data showing thousands of naturalized citizens on the purge list.

In the aftermath, Texas’ acting Secretary of State David Whitley resigned on May 27.

The emails were made public by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Campaign Legal Center, based in Washington, D.C. The center represented plaintiffs who sued the state, the Chronicle reports.

“The bottom line is this was the governor’s program,” said Luis Vera, LULAC’s national general counsel.

Vera also believes Abbott threw Whitley and Department of Public Safety Secretary Steve McCraw “under the bus. All along it was the governor pushing for (the program.)”

And according to the Chronicle:

“In an August 2018 email, John Crawford, a top official of the Driver License division at the Texas Department of Public Safety told employees that DPS had previously turned over records to compare with state voter rolls, and ‘we have an urgent request from the governor’s office to do it again.'”

On that same August day, Amanda Arriaga, director of the driver license division inadvertently corroborated this in a separate email, noting “the Governor is interested in getting this information as soon as possible.”

But Abbott released a statement denying talking to anyone at the DPS until March 2019, and John Wittman a spokesman for Abbott had this to say:

“Neither the governor nor the governor’s office gave a directive to initiate this process. No one speaks for the governor’s office but the governor’s office.”

Because Abbott’s office and other agencies have been reluctant to release records related to this issue, it’s difficult to tell just how involved his office is. But the emails indicate that DPS employees and officials from the Secretary of State’s office may have begun working on voter purge information in March 2018.

It’s fortunate that the lawsuits forced these key players to step up and abolish this program. If that hadn’t happened, far too many innocent people may have been affected and their voices unheard. This is also something to keep in mind if Abbott runs again.

Featured image by Gage Skidmore license CC SA 2.0 via Flickr