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Voting Rights: Did Texas’ Voter Purge Effort Come From The Governor Himself?

June 10, 2019 1:53 p.m.

New documents released by the groups that challenged Texas’ shoddy effort to purge alleged noncitizens from the rolls revealed that one of the agencies behind that effort felt pressure from Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to move forward with the botched data project. Abbott’s office is denying his involvement, despite multiple 2017 emails from officials in the agency, the Department of Public Safety, describing the project as an “urgent” request from him.

Even though Texas reached a settlement with groups — in which the state retracted its claims about the number of noncitizens it had identified and narrowed its approach to its investigation — state officials are still suggesting that the state has open criminal inquiries related to it. They are citing that justification when blocking public document requests about the original list.

The trial court judge in the census citizenship case is taking seriously claims that two witnesses provided false testimony about the Trump administration’s process of getting the question added. But the judge, Manhattan-based U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman, also doesn’t plan on resolving the allegations before the Supreme Court hands down the final decision on whether the question stays on the 2020 census. The accusations — which allege that a now-deceased GOP gerrymandering consultant was more involved in the push than the administration let on — have also been raised in the lawsuit brought in a Maryland federal court, where the challengers have asked the judge there to weigh whether the evidence shows the administration acted with a racial animus.

The files of the late consultant, Thomas Hofeller, have led to another bomb being dropped in a separate partisan gerrymandering case in North Carolina. The challengers there alleged Thursday that Hofeller’s files prove that the defendants — the North Carolina legislature — lied to a federal court in a racial gerrymandering case in 2017. The alleged false assertions helped North Carolina Republicans stave off a special election the judge had previously ordered in the racial gerrymandering case, according to the challengers.

Democratic presidential candidates are being asked to sign a pledge — circulated by Eric Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee — that they will oppose extreme partisan gerrymandering. So far 16 candidates have signed.

One of those candidates, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (TX), released a voting rights platform last week backing automatic and same-day registration, a national voting holiday and accommodations in voter ID laws for people who don’t have the required documents.

Michigan settled a lawsuit brought against it by Dems by agreeing to launch an educational campaign to facilitate college students’ access to the ballot. The lawsuit was brought after Michigan Republicans pushed a law that would make it harder for students to vote by barring registration by individuals who live in places (such as dorms) that don’t match the addresses on their driver’s ID. Under the settlement, the law still stands but the state — which now has a Democratic secretary of state — will use registration drives that will help students better understand that they can fix that discrepancy as they register to vote.

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