Second Texas County Faces Lawsuit for Withholding Records of Noncitizens Registered to Vote

Harris and Bexar Counties both threatened with lawsuits this month

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January 23, 2018

A public interest election group is threatening to sue a Texas County over its refusal to release records dealing with noncitizens on their voter rolls, the second Texas County threatened with such a lawsuit this month.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), a group that litigates to protect election integrity, sent a final notice to Harris County in Texas warning that they could face a federal lawsuit if they continued to deny the group inspection of their records related to registrants who were removed from the rolls after it was discovered that they were noncitizens.

Harris County voter registration officials previously testified that "thousands" of noncitizens were discovered every year on their rolls and were handed over to the District Attorney for prosecution. The city of Houston, the largest city in the state, and one of the most populous cities in America, is located in Harris County.

PILF requested to review the Harris County records on Dec. 1, 2017, but was denied access on Jan. 11. The county had focused its denial on the Texas Public Information Act despite PILF attempting to gain access to the information using the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

Section 8 of the National Voters Registration Act allows individuals to request inspection or copies of "records concerning the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voters," notes PILF.

"It is our hope that the County will work quickly to provide for inspection the all of the records previously requested," PILF's final notice reads. "If not, according to federal law, a lawsuit under the NVRA may be filed within 90 days after the failure to permit inspection or failure to provide the documents."

The county attorney, who received PILF's final notice, did not return a request for comment by press time.

"Noncitizens are registering to vote in Houston—officials have been speaking in public about it for years," said Logan Churchwell, the communications director for PILF. "How many are getting offered registration by third party field operations? How many at the driver's license office? How many aren't being reported to law enforcement after voting? We'll take this all the way to court to find out. Stop hiding, open the books."

PILF also sent a final notice to Bexar County in Texas in early January warning that the county could face a lawsuit for concealing identical records of noncitizens on voter rolls.

Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, denied PILF access to their records following a request from the group in mid-December. Attorneys from the county also told PILF they would also be denied access to the records if they were to show up at the county offices.