Texas Settles Lawsuit Over Attempt to Purge Thousands From Voter Rollsby John C MoritzCorpus Christi Caller Times December 18, 2019
AUSTIN, Texas – Texas taxpayers will hand over $450,000 to the lawyers who sued the state earlier this year over the attempt to purge the list of registered voters that might have improperly disenfranchised countless numbers of naturalized citizens.
The payment of attorneys’ fees was part of a major capitulation Friday by the Texas Secretary of State’s office when it settled the lawsuit seeking to block the plan to cull voter lists. The settlement also formally ends the state’s advisory to county elections administrators to take steps to pull as many as 95,000 names from their voter lists.
The leader of one of the parties that brought the suit hailed the settlement as a victory.
“From day one, we warned that the actions taken by the Secretary of State would result in voter suppression and cautioned that the timing and efforts were potentially politically motivated,” said Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchia of Dallas, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.
The move by Whitley, then newly appointed, ignited a firestorm of protest that the state was targeting voters with Hispanic surnames. Whitley denied such an intent but did admit that his office could have better managed what he called the “maintenance” of voter lists.
The move also united all 12 Democrats in the Texas Senate to oppose Whitley’s appointment by Gov. Greg Abbott from being made permanent. Because Whitley was appointed before the 2019 legislative session began, he was able to assume office immediately.
But he still needs two-thirds of the 31-member Texas Senate to vote to confirm his nomination. With Democrats aligned against him, he is short of the number needed.
The chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, El Paso’s Jose Rodriguez, said the settlement was “a good first step toward addressing the damage done,” but he stopped short of saying whether the way is cleared to confirm Whitley.
“Many Texans mistakenly believe evidence of mass voter fraud has been found,” Rodriguez said. “And even though they are eligible, many will choose to not vote for fear that they will be harassed by the state.”
If the Legislature adjourns May 27 without acting on the nomination, Whitley will be required to leave office.
In a statement, Whitley sought to move past the controversy
“Today’s agreement accomplishes our office’s goal of maintaining an accurate list of qualified registered voters while eliminating the impact of any list maintenance activity on naturalized U.S. citizens,” he said. “I will continue to work with all stakeholders in the election community to ensure this process is conducted in a manner that holds my office accountable and protects the voting rights of eligible Texans.”