MALC Policy Committee Submits Statement to Senate Nominations Committee on SoS Whitley Confirmation Hearing

Austin, Texas – Today, the Senate Nominations Committee held confirmation hearings for several appointed officials, including acting-Secretary of State David Whitley. Acting-Secretary Whitley was appointed to the role by Governor Greg Abbott in December 2018, having previously served as his deputy chief of staff.

The following statement was entered into the public record by Senator Kirk Watson, Vice-Chair of the Senate Nominations Committee, on behalf of the MALC Policy Committee:

“Thank you, acting-Secretary Whitley, for appearing before the Senate Nominations Committee today and answering questions on the record.

“We, members of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus Policy Committee, continue to have serious and unresolved concerns regarding the timing, process and motivation behind your release of Election Advisory No. 2019-02 to county registrars on Friday, January 25.

“We, too, consider American citizens’ right to vote to be fundamental. It is our commitment to civil rights that requires us to be skeptical of your ability to serve as our Secretary of State.

“Your stated purpose for distributing the election advisory was to call county registrars’ attention to widespread voter fraud that has allegedly been occurring throughout Texas over the course of many years. It is indeed within your authority to work with county registrars to identify and remove deceased individuals from the voter rolls, but the legislature has not codified a list maintenance process nor granted you this same authority in regards to citizenship data.

“In spite of the lack of precedent, your office adapted this process to produce a ‘purge list’ made up of ‘weak’ matches that it knew or should have known were likely to represent naturalized American citizens who earned the right to vote. This list should have been subjected to careful scrutiny before it was distributed to registrars to minimize the possibility that any American citizens would be required to prove their citizenship status, at the very least. But no precautions were taken to protect citizens from having their rights unfairly challenged and the ‘weak’ matches were sent to county registrars.

“Election Advisory No. 2019-02 has failed to uncover widespread voter fraud. Instead, it shifted the burden to nearly one hundred thousand Americans to prove their citizenship simply because they applied for a Texas Driver License with the Department of Public Safety while lawful permanent residents. It also gave county registrars too much discretion about what to do with the data provided to them by the state, effectively empowering bad actors to mass mail citizenship verification letters and conduct state-sanctioned voter purges if so motivated.

“The context surrounding your actions and the immediate aftermath of the advisory’s release casts further suspicion on the timing, process and motivation behind this scandal. Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton were prepared to send out on-message ‘voter fraud alert’ statements almost immediately upon the advisory’s release, and Paxton announced criminal investigations. Senator Fallon filed his citizenship verification process bill the following Monday.

“Your decision not to meet with the MALC Policy Committee to diffuse the situation and make progress toward a fair resolution, despite multiple invitations, calls your ability and desire to serve all Texans into question. As does your decision not to rescind the advisory and retract the citizenship verification letters that have already been sent out.

“Texas is a vast and diverse state, and Texans deserve a fair elections administrator who will protect all of our voting rights. Your tenure has been one of credible suspicion and mistrust, acting-Secretary Whitley, and we remain unconvinced of your ability to serve as our Secretary of State.”

Policy Committee members:

Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, Chair Rep. Gina Hinojosa Rep. Celia Israel Rep. Ina Minjarez
Rep. Victoria Neave Rep. Lina Ortega Rep. Leo Pacheco Rep. Ramon Romero