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Gov. Greg Abbott Says Alleged Noncitizen Voter Purge Is A 'Work In Process'

Salvador Castro for KUT

Despite accusations the state is violating voting rights, Gov. Greg Abbott did not call for the Texas Secretary of State to rescind an advisory he sent out last week that said his office found thousands of possible noncitizens on the state’s voter rolls.

During a press conference with other state leaders Thursday, Abbott was asked if he thought the state’s effort to remove possible noncitizens should stop after local officials found serious issues with the list.

“This is what we would categorize as a process, a work in process,” Abbott said. “They will get it right.”

Last Friday, Secretary of State David Whitley sent an advisory to local registrars asking them to look at their voter rolls and send letters to the 95,00o people on the state's list of alleged noncitizens. The state asked counties to seek proof of citizenship.

Voting rights groups have said the people on the list are likely naturalized citizens who recently got the right to vote.

Many local election officials, particularly in the state’s major cities, have been holding off sending letters. Instead, many have tried to figure out how accurate the state’s list is. Many local officials, including Travis County Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant, say they have found hundreds and sometimes thousands of citizens erroneously on the list.

Voting rights group say the effort was badly handled from the beginning and should be stopped.

“Enough is enough,” Andre Segura, the legal director for the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement Thursday. “Just a few days after we raised these concerns, the numbers trumpeted by Secretary of State and Attorney General are falling apart. The Texas Secretary of State has no choice but to publicly take back this shoddy advisory and instruct counties not to take action on it.”

Earlier this week, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a civil rights group, filed a lawsuit in federal court against state officials. The group says the state is violating the Voting Rights Act and intimidating people who recently became naturalized citizens.

Abbott said he thinks it’s important for these lists to be accurate. He said Whitley was “clear that it was a weak match … and it wasn’t a hard and fast list.” However, he said state officials should do what they can to make sure Texas' voter rolls don't include noncitizens.

“We, in the state of Texas, don’t want anybody who is not legally authorized to be able to vote to have the ability to cast a vote,” he said.

When asked if he thinks thousands of noncitizens voted in Texas elections, Abbott equivocated.

“I think it’s important to let the data speak for itself,” he said.

So far, thousands of people have been removed from the list because they are citizens.

Ashley Lopez covers politics and health care. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.
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