Are non-citizens registering and voting in Texas? That’s a question one county is refusing to answer.
Bexar County’s elections department faces a federal lawsuit if it continues to deny access to public records of non-citizens found on the county’s voter rolls.
The county refused a request by the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) to inspect records of non-citizens who registered to vote and then were later removed from the voter rolls after the county discovered they weren’t citizens. It’s a violation of federal and state law for non-citizens to register to vote.
In an unusual move, the Bexar County District Attorney’s office responded to PILF on behalf of Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen. In a letter dated December 14, Assistant DA Clarkson Brown explicitly told PILF that if representatives appeared for inspection at county offices, they would be denied access.
“This is a terrible mistake on the part of Bexar County and an abrupt reversal on years of compliance with similar requests,” PILF President and General Counsel J. Christian Adams said. “Other counties across Texas are complying with federal law. Either Bexar officials feel they are special or they have something embarrassing to hide. We will go to federal court if we must to obtain these public records.”
The county’s response claimed, incorrectly, that federal voter roll disclosure and inspection requirements apply only to the Texas Secretary of State, the state’s chief election official, and not to county elections offices.
PILF advised the county in its December 20 NVRA violation notice that, “The federal court in the Western District of Texas has determined that county-level election officials in Texas must comply with the requirements of the NVRA.”
NVRA refers to the National Voter Registration Act, also known as “Motor Voter,” a federal law enacted in 1993. It requires local election officials to maintain accurate voter registration lists and allow public inspection of records relating to its list maintenance programs.
The NVRA also made it easier for non-citizens to get on voter rolls by mandating that states offer voter registration by mail and at driver’s license offices. Registering to vote is now an honor system, with no documentation required and no one verifying citizenship status – applicants merely check a box affirming they’re U.S. citizens.
That’s how Mexican national Rosa Maria Ortega got on the voter rolls in Texas. Last year, Ortega was convicted of voter fraud for illegally registering and voting multiple times in Dallas County, and attempting to register again in Tarrant County.
PILF has also successfully sued counties in Texas and other states that have failed to maintain accurate voter rolls as federal law requires, winning consent agreements compelling local election officials to comply with the NVRA.
Bexar County may be next on their list if it continues to conceal public records related to non-citizens registering and voting. The county elections office has until mid-March to allow PILF to inspect voter registration records or else be sued in federal court.