Fighting for Transparency & Fiscal Responsibility in Local Government

Bill Requiring Proof of Citizenship to Vote Filed

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Texas could join other states requiring proof of citizenship for those registering to vote.

Representative Mike Lang (R-Granbury) has filed a bill meant to ensure Texas elections are conducted fairly, ensuring voter rolls do not include non-citizens.

House Bill 378 requires that citizenship is established for individuals registering to vote, including language requiring the Secretary of State to confer with the Department of Public Safety to check the citizen status of registrants.

Criticism of the bill from some on the left is generic, claiming the bill will make it more difficult to register to vote. Proving citizenship is difficult if you’re not a citizen.

Negative reactions and talking points against such a bill are to be expected and can be used to identify disingenuous actors both in Texas and American political discourse.

Headlines since 2016 have been dominated by handwringing over Russian interference in the presidential election, though no one contends a single illegal vote was cast by a Russian.

What’s truly undermining and destabilizing America is forked tongued groups and individuals who will one minute decry Russian interference and then turn around and protect non-citizens registered and voting in Texas elections.

Currently, federal voting law does not bar states from requiring proof of citizenship when registering voters.

The state of Arizona has had a law on the books dating back to 2004 requiring voters to provide proof-of-citizenship when registering to vote. Kansas passed a similar law in 2011 as have Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia.

Such laws are needed because signing a form affirming citizenship isn’t as foolproof a barrier as some suggest.

In November, a court upheld the conviction of a woman who first marked she was a non-citizen only to fill out a subsequent form claiming to be a citizen after she was informed she would not be allowed to vote.

You can read the full text of Rep. Lang’s bill here. Note, underlined text is new language added to election code.

This session Direct Action Texas will be tracking, supporting, and opposing bills as lawmakers work to make needed or (more often than not) unnecessary changes to our election code.

DAT Statement on Secretary of State Speech

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Direct Action Texas commends Secretary of State David Whitley’s remarks kicking off the legislative session.

This week the legislature convened and the opening ceremonies in the House were led by the newly appointed Secretary. In carrying out his duties, calling the legislature to order, Whitley took time to highlight his offices’ duty administering our electoral process.

Notably, election administration was prioritized, a departure from recent prior speeches by Whitley’s predecessors.

Little is known about the specific actions his office will pursue in 2019. What’s known is his appointment comes at a time when Texans are becoming increasingly aware of the office and its importance. In December, a coalition of Grassroots conservatives called on the governor and Whitley to work aggressively on a list of needed reforms.

Following the speech, Direct Action Texas’ Executive Director Daniel Greer said, “we look forward to learning more about Mr. Whitley’s agenda in the days and weeks ahead of his nomination hearing.”

During his speech, Whitely offered himself up as a resource for those at the vanguard of the fight for election accuracy, the 254 county officials charged with carrying out elections and members of the legislature.

Appointed by Governor Greg Abbott in December, Whitley will need to be confirmed by the Senate.

Texas should NOT mimic California

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In last week’s Direct Action Texas email newsletter (be sure to sign up here) we highlighted a bill that seeks to automatically register voters renewing or applying for a Texas drivers license.

This bill is bad news bears.

House Bill 140 by Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio) would automatically register anyone applying for or updating a Texas drivers license. Direct Action Texas will oppose this bill during the 2019 legislative session as it will undermine trust in the integrity of our voter registration and election system.

In 2018 California made a similar change to automatically register folks at the DMV and is now dealing with the fallout after non-citizens were mistakenly registered. Since April of 2018, the state has acknowledged up to 105,000 processing errors.

In September it was reported that 23,000 voter registrations were sent to Californians in error which was followed by October reports that 1,500 non-citizens were registered.

The errors in California are happening. Plus, since they are technical errors the individuals being registered aren’t committing fraud. Added layers of bureaucracy and grey area diffuse blame and make accountability difficult if not impossible.

Accountability is something that needs to be increased in our electoral system not diminished.

In addition to observing our neighbors to the West, Texans have fresh evidence that increasing reliance on the DMV when it comes to facilitating voter registration would be an error. In December an audit of the driver’s license division revealed that twenty-five percent of licenses reviewed were incorrectly issued.

These errors may include missing unique identifying information like a social security number or proof of residency.

Texans need to be focused on accountability and accuracy in our current registration and the voting regime, not looking to mimic California or adding to the workload of an already error-prone Department of Public Safety.

Troubling Audit Further Impacting Voter Rolls?

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In the fall of 2018 Direct Action Texas called on Governor Greg Abbott to ensure ineligible individuals were removed from Texas’ voter roll.

At the time, there were over 280,000 non-citizens registered to vote. However, based on a December audit of the Department of Public Safety’s driver’s licenses division, that number could be higher.

According to the State Auditor’s office drivers licenses in Texas are being issued without proper information and supporting documentation.

This development could skew the number of non-citizens registered to vote even higher than previously estimated. It’s unclear how much higher since the audit was limited in scope, sampling 60 licenses from the total population of issued licenses. Still, 25% of those sampled lacked sufficient information.

Without unique identifying information being presented to obtain a driver’s license (i.e. social security and proof of residency) the likelihood of a voter being fraudulently registered is increased.

Following the audit’s publication, a DPS spokesperson stated that the department “did not issue a license or identification card to an ineligible applicant,” while at the same time the agency admits to a lack of institutional oversight.

Now, it’s more important than ever to be sure that the incoming Secretary of State is aggressively pursuing all opportunities to ensure a clean voter roll.

Ensuring that the votes of citizens are being cast and counted is crucial.

Join us calling for the newly appointed Secretary of State to safeguard our elections.

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