TEXAS — A group of civil rights organizations is suing the Texas secretary of state over a so-called “voter purge” program.

The suit, led by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Texas and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, alleges the secretary of state is violating the National Voter Registration Act by refusing to turn over documents related to the program.

“The Texas secretary is once again improperly trying to purge voters from voter rolls [and is] ensnaring a ton of naturalized citizens in its efforts,” said Ashley Harris, a lawyer with the ACLU of Texas. “[They are] targeting largely communities of color in Texas who have just as much of a right to vote as everyone else.”

The elections law passed last year by the Legislature requires the secretary of state to do regular sweeps of the voter rolls to verify voters’ citizenship status.

This new iteration of a voter purge program follows a similar attempt made in 2019. That program was halted after it came out that the office was relying on out-of-date records and would have wrongly canceled thousands of voter registrations of legal Texas voters. The groups suing say they cannot determine if the secretary of state’s office is following the rules set by the 2019 settlement without the documents.

“The question here is whether the state is following the procedures it says it is,” said Harris. “And if it is, why are so many naturalized citizens being [wrongfully removed]?”

The secretary of state’s office declined to comment on the lawsuit but did point to documents on its website detailing the citizenship verification process.

About 11,000 voters have been flagged as potential non-citizens this time around, and about 2,500 registrations were canceled as of Dec. 31, 2021. 

Federal law prohibits any registrations from being canceled 90 days before an election, so any purges are on hold until after the March 1 primaries.

Click the link above for the full interview with Ashley Harris.