In the lawsuit challenging Texas’ use of a error-ridden list to try to purge voter rolls, a federal judge on Wednesday dismissed the claims against Attorney General Ken Paxton, but denied the request by the counties sued in the litigation that they be dropped from the case.
The judge, however, floated a potential resolution of the claims against the county defendants in which they would agree to limit their use of the list to investigate alleged noncitizen voters.
U.S. District Judge Fred Biery has not yet ruled on the request by the state that he dismiss the claims against interim Texas Secretary of State David Whitley, whose office compiled a list that suggested tens of thousands of non-citizens were on the voter rolls and had illegally voted.
The claims, announced in a January advisory from Whitley’s office, were touted by Paxton, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and President Trump, who has falsely alleged that there is mass voter fraud.
“As the Court noted in its original Order, the Attorney General is only being sued for making an alleged intimidating press release.” Judge Biery said Wednesday. “Politicians have been making threatening statements since the early days of the Republic exercising their First Amendment rights.”
The list — which claimed that 95,000 non-citizens had been identified on the voter rolls and that 58,000 of them had voted — has since been found to filled with thousands of duplicates and false positives. County election officials were initially encouraged by Whitley’s office to remove individuals on the list from their voter rolls if the individuals did not respond to a notice seeking confirmation of their citizenship.
In filings in the litigation, the counties and state officials have essentially blamed each other in trying to wash their hands of allegations of wrongdoing in how they handled the list.
“If either interpretation is accepted, the county administrators are those who would send what plaintiffs assert are inaccurate correspondence leading to improper intimidation of eligible voters,” Biery said Wednesday, in denying the counties’ motion to dismiss.
“The Court is sympathetic to the counties’ concerns about the extraordinary, and in the Court’s opinion, unnecessary expense and time caused by the flawed program executed by the Secretary of State’s office,” his order said. “Accordingly, the Court would be open to a proposal from the county defendants agreeing not to send notice of examination letters without conclusive evidence that the recipient is indeed a non-citizen registered voter based on an investigation that does not include contact with the individual.”
“Were such a proposal forthcoming, the Court would reconsider whether the counties need to continue being a party to this lawsuit,” Biery said.
Biery additionally scheduled a status hearing on April 29, which will occur after he views certain exhibits in the case in his chamber that morning. The scheduling order also noted filings in the case claiming that the state is still using the faulty methodology to find alleged non-citizens on its voter rolls that gave rise to the initial problematic list.
“Clearly, the unanimity of purpose in having only eligible persons registered to vote cannot occur if the State of Texas and its agencies cannot provide accurate information on which to go forward. The Court will be interested to hear the current state of affairs regarding the foregoing,” the judge said.
Read the orders below: