North Texas Daily

No notice letters sent to county residents amid state voter purge

No notice letters sent to county residents amid state voter purge

No notice letters sent to county residents amid state voter purge
February 14
00:37 2019

Denton County Election Administrator Frank Phillips confirmed on Feb. 7 in an email that he has not sent any letters regarding a citizenship check to voters on the list he received from the Texas Secretary of State’s office.

“We are taking a slow approach to this issue,” Phillips said. “There has not been a lot of guidance from the state and there have already been lawsuits filed against the state and other counties regarding this matter.”

On Jan. 25, the Texas Secretary of State’s office announced it would send local election officials a list of 95,000 voters who they said may need a citizenship check. Four days later, on Jan. 29, they told local election officials that some people listed in the original list of 95,000 voters may not belong there.

For Denton County, Phillips said he originally received a list of 2,934 voters who may need a voter citizenship check. However, about 500 of those voters were removed from the original list, leaving 2,466 voters in Denton County who may need a citizenship check.

Phillips said that while he cannot be positive the list will not decrease again, he also does not anticipate it.

Phillips said when he does send out letters to voters the Texas Secretary of State’s office say may need a voter citizenship check, they have 30 days to respond with proof of citizenship to remain on the voter registration list. If they fail to respond within the 30-day time limit or respond saying they are not a citizen, they are removed from the voter registration list.

“This is a blatant form of voter suppression,” said Rudy Vela, the president of Jolt Initiative at UNT. “Politicians are scared of the rise in voter turnout amongst Latinos and will do anything to scare us away from the polls.”

Jolt Initiative is “a Texas-based multi-issue organization that builds the political power and influence of Latinos in our democracy,” according to its UNT organization page. The statewide Jolt Initiative organization, along with three other organizations, are plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed on Feb. 4 listing the secretary of state and local election officials in five counties as defendants.

“The right to vote is sacrosanct,” Andre Segura, legal director for the ACLU of Texas, one of the organizations representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “Yet the Texas Secretary of State has engaged in a sloppy exercise that threatens to unfairly strip people of the opportunity to participate in American democracy. We look forward to ensuring that all eligible Texas voters can make their voices heard on election day.”

Public relations senior Tyler Miller-Shain, the outreach coordinator for the UNT Republicans, said that people who may have voted fraudulently need to be investigated to maintain the integrity in elections.

“I think going further, there’s a number of individuals who rightfully shouldn’t even be on that list because they actually are naturalized citizens and they are in fact, eligible to vote,” Miller-Shain said. “Personally, I think that every citizen that is eligible to vote in the election should be able to vote.”

Miller-Shain went on to say that he does think the Texas Secretary of State’s office was a bit hasty in releasing their original list considering it had to be revised four days later.

“I think that it’s especially important being in this situation, to handle it with the most care,” Miller-Shain said. “I think that they did jump the gun on that point. Days after they released that number, they were taking [names] off the list and I think that right there just shows the ineffectiveness and the lack of attention they showed to that point.”

On the other side of the aisle, the UNT Democrats echoed Vela in calling it a “blatant attempt at voter suppression.”

“Basically, one of the biggest fears that it seems the Republican Party and conservatives in general have is of undocumented citizens voting in elections,” said Tristan White, a computer science junior and the social media chair for the UNT Democrats. “After a much more tough election year than anticipated, it does seem that the current Texas administration is worried about its future. This just seems like blatant paranoia, to me, about voter fraud.”

Phillips said this issue does not affect past elections and the only effect it would have on future elections would be a possible lower voter registration count.

Vela said this issue affects voting by scaring people away.

“The situation makes voters think that their vote actually doesn’t count and ultimately decreases voter turnout,” Vela said.

Featured Image: Approximately 2,943 registered Denton County voters are having their citizenship reviewed before they can vote in another election. This is roughly .006 percent of registered voters in Denton County. Graphic by: Trevor Seibert. 

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Lizzy Spangler

Lizzy Spangler

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