AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Democratic Representatives Joaquin Castro and Lloyd Doggett spoke at a news conference in Austin on Friday, calling on state leaders to release all documents related to the list of suspected illegal voters issued by former Secretary of State David Whitley.
Back in January, then-Secretary of State Whitley sent advisories to county voter registrars telling them his office and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) identified nearly 100,000 immigrants suspected of being illegally registered to vote. The notice went on to say 58,000 of them had voted in an election.
It turns out most of the people on the list are naturalized citizens – a fact that led to various voting rights groups and lawmakers calling the list attempted voter suppression and filing federal lawsuits.
The state eventually settled the lawsuits, but this week, emails from the court case were made public and in them, DPS leaders wrote that the governor was pushing for the probe.
The Governor's Office denied those claims and Gov. Abbott's staff points out that during the trial, there was sworn testimony from the previous Secretary of State who initiated the investigation that the governor wasn't involved.
But Rep. Castro and Rep. Doggett said the refusal of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to give the U.S. House Oversight Committee requested documents about the list reeks of a cover-up.
"All of the documents involved ought to be disclosed to the public," Rep. Doggett said. "I believe that there are some legislators who received documents from the Secretary of State's Office and had to sign confidentiality agreements. The lawsuits over, they ought to all be disclosed."
The fallout over the list resulted in State Senate Democrats taking a stand against Whitley and refusing to confirm his nomination by Gov. Abbott. Whitley avoided being forced out by resigning on the last day of the legislative session. Later that week, Gov. Abbott hired Whitley in the Governor's Office with a salary of more than $200,000 a year.
Rep. Castro said that's a clear indicator that the governor stands behind Whitley and is "rewarding" him.
"It's important to find the people that were responsible," Rep. Castro said. "And the email traffic suggests that the governor has his fingerprints on an attempted voter purge of almost 100,000 Texans and stealing their ability to vote. And if that's the case, he needs to be held accountable."
Texas DPS provided KVUE with the following statement about the ordeal:
As the governor’s office has said, their office did not initiate the data transfer project with DPS. The project was initiated by the Secretary of State’s Office (SOS) in March 2018, when the SOS requested data from DPS. In August 2018, the governor’s office requested that DPS conduct a cyber security threat assessment of the state’s election infrastructure, as well as provide the SOS with whatever information they needed to protect the integrity of the election process.
KVUE also reached out to the Governor's Office about Congressmen Doggett and Castro's remarks. The office provided this statement:
Congressmen Castro and Doggett showed that they are as ineffective at spinning lies as they are at working for Texans in Washington D.C.
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