San Antonio, TX – In response to MALDEF’s motion for a temporary restraining order, a federal court on Monday restrained 10 counties in Texas from carrying out voter purges.
“Voter intimidation and voter purge can cause irreparable injury in very short order, so I am proud that MALDEF’s legal team named the counties as defendants and sought immediate relief,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “Protecting the Latino community sometimes requires taking bold and independent action to counter the aggressive efforts by constitutional violators to unduly restrict the vote.”
Attorneys for MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) filed the request as part of a lawsuit challenging Texas Secretary of State David Whitley’s advisory to counties that singled out naturalized U.S. citizens for investigation and possible removal from voter rolls based solely on the fact that they were born outside the United States, in violation of their equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit also names 13 counties as defendants.
“The judge restrained ten county voter registrars in response to our request for a TRO because we showed that the Texas voter purge targets naturalized citizens,” said Nina Perales, MALDEF vice president of litigation. “Secretary of State Whitley singled out only registered voters born abroad for investigation and purging from the voter rolls, and counties feel bound to send purge letters to the naturalized U.S. citizens on the list.”
In the Jan. 25th advisory sent to county registrars, Whitley warned that over 95,000 non-U.S. citizens could be registered to vote and thousands voted in previous elections. Two days later, his staff informed the counties that the list of suspect voters issued by his office contained erroneous information, but he did not withdraw the list or the advisory.
Whitley’s list of suspect voters was based on information provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety about individuals who were non- U.S. citizens at the time they applied for a driver’s license or state identification. That information, however, does not indicate whether individuals obtained U.S. citizenship after applying for a driver’s license. Texas driver’s licenses issued to lawful permanent residents are valid for six years, during which time many immigrants become eligible to naturalize and register to vote.
MALDEF represents 13 individual naturalized citizen voters living in various counties, along with Southwest Voter Registration Project (SVREP), Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, La Unión Del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), and UnidosUS.
MALDEF’s lawsuit was consolidated with two other suits on Feb. 22, 2019.