The Texas Democratic Party sent voter registration applications to noncitizens in the Rio Grande Valley region of South Texas, urging recipients to cast ballots in the November midterm election.
These mailers allegedly arrived with the U.S. citizenship box pre-checked, potentially creating false claims to voter eligibility, according to a complaint filed Thursday.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), a national election integrity law firm, alerted district attorneys in the affected Starr and Hidalgo Counties about the “altered” mailers in which the U.S. citizenship box purportedly came pre-filled as “yes.” The Foundation also apprised Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Texas Secretary of State, and the U.S. Department of Justice about the situation.
In total, three questions on the voter registration form raised concerns. The first two, “Are you a United States citizen?” and “Will you be 18 years of age on or before election day?” came pre-printed and marked “X” in the corresponding “yes” box. A third question, “What type of application?” displayed “X” for “new application.” The rest of the form remained blank.
The complaint showed it came from the Texas Democratic Party and included the voter registration form and a return envelope. The mailer insisted recipients “complete, sign, and return” the applications before the October 9 voter registration deadline.
“We notice that there is a USPS change of address on file but your voter registration is still in your former address,” read the materials. It advised recipients unsure if they were registered to “Mail IMMEDIATELY to be registered to vote in the November 2018 election!”
According to PILF, noncitizens received the mailers in late September and early October.
A sworn affidavit by U.S. citizen and former Starr County Volunteer Registrar David Kifuri, Jr., accompanied the complaint. Kifuri came into contact with PILF on October 3 after relatives, who are legal permanent residents but ineligible to vote, received these mailers.
“Noncitizens usually register to vote at the prompting of another party — usually a DMV clerk,” said PILF President and General Counsel J. Christian Adams.
The documents sent to Texas and federal officials explained why pre-printed answers about voting eligibility are problematic, citing the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993, also known as the “motor voter” law:
[W]hen Congress passed the NVRA, it envisioned a registrant making two separate affirmations of citizenship — both the checkbox as well as the signature attestation. This enables prosecutors to easier establish intent and state of mind when noncitizens illegally register to vote.
PILF urged state and federal officials who received the complaint to “investigate if and how many returned applications” arrived in local county election office(s) in Starr and Hidalgo Counties.
“We are raising awareness to how the Texas Democrat Party — unintentionally or otherwise — is offering voter registration to noncitizens. Without some form of official intervention, confused noncitizens rather than the Texas Dems will end up paying the consequences of this matter,” stated Adams.
Late Thursday, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott responded to news of this complaint over social media, saying the matter was being investigated. “If true, there will be serious consequences,” said Abbott.
This week, Rio Grande Valley resident Maria Armstrong told KRGV she received one of these mailers from the Texas Democratic Party. Armstrong, a U.S. citizen, said she already registered to vote and worried the misleading mailer could undermine the legitimacy and integrity of her vote.
She said: “I want my vote to count.”
Sam Taylor, spokesman for the Texas Secretary of State said their office “has received a large volume of calls from concerned Texans in recent weeks indicating that they received voter registration application forms from the Texas Democratic Party in the mail addressed to deceased relatives and individuals who are not U.S. citizens.”
Taylor noted: “In some cases, the deceased passed away more than 10 years ago.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton pledged to assist Starr County District Attorney Omar Escobar in his “fight against voter fraud” which included allegations of noncitizen voting earlier this year. Similarly, Paxton’s office supported Hidalgo County DA Ricardo Rodriguez, opening a probe into alleged voter fraud activities that stemmed back to a 2017 municipal election.
Starr and Hidalgo are two of 13 Texas counties that have more registered voters than eligible residents, says PILF.
In Texas, illegal voting is a second degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. In September, a Mexican national received 10 years in jail after pleading guilty to voter fraud charges including ineligible voting in Montgomery County. Last year, a Mexican national and legal permanent U.S. resident got an eight year prison sentence for falsely claiming U.S. citizenship in Dallas County where she voted as a Republican at least five times. Deportation proceedings can follow.