Texas Governor Greg Abbott Spearheaded Voter Purge That Used Flawed Data, DPS Emails Show

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) requested the state's botched decision to purge roughly 100,000 suspected non-U.S. citizens from Texas' voter election rolls, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) emails released on Tuesday show.

The voter purge was pursued after Texas' former acting Secretary of State David Whitley declared that his office had discovered rampant voter fraud across the state and called for the strengthening of voter identification laws.

The state abandoned the purge in April after they were legally challenged by civil rights groups, who accused Whitley of wrongly targeting naturalized citizens. After he publicly admitted that tens of thousands had indeed been wrongly identified for removal, Whitley resigned from his position last month when it became apparent that the Texas Senate likely wouldn't confirm him after the incident, reported the Houston Chronicle.

The emails — made public Tuesday by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a civil rights organization founded in 1929, and the Campaign Legal Center — showed communications between the state's DPS and Secretary of State's office regarding plans for the voter purge. They reveal that the state had begun working on the program several months before Whitley was appointed to office.

"This was Gov. Abbott's program. He started it with [Attorney General] Ken Paxton, and he did this thinking they were going to pull off a stunt and they got caught with their pants down," Luis Vera, general counsel of LULAC, told Think Progress.

In an email sent August last year, John Crawford, a top official from the DPS, told staffers that the driver license department of the organization had previously been asked to provide records to cross-reference with state voter rolls. "We have an urgent request from the governor's office to do it again," he wrote.

"The Governor is interested in getting this information as soon as possible." Amanda Arriaga, the director of the DPS' driver license division, said in another email.

In a statement, Abbott asserted that he only started talks with the DPS this March despite the emails suggesting that the DPS and the Secretary of State's office had begun working on the voter purge in March 2018. "Neither the Governor, nor the Governor's office gave a directive to initiate this process," Abbott's spokesperson John Wittman told The Chronicle. "No one speaks for the Governor's office, but the Governor's office."

Newsweek reached out to the Texas Department of Safety for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott
Governor Greg Abbott of Texas addresses the crowd before President Donald Trump took the stage for a rally in support of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on October 22, 2018 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. Newly released Department of Public Safety emails show that Abbott spearheaded the state's program to purge roughly 100,000 suspected non-U.S. citizens from the voter roll using flawed data. Loren Elliott