Texas Democrats ask noncitizens to register to vote

October 18, 2018 GMT

The Texas Democratic Party asked noncitizens to register to vote, sending out applications to immigrants with the citizenship box already checked “Yes,” according to new complaints filed Thursday asking prosecutors to see what laws may have been broken.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation alerted district attorneys and the Justice Department to the pre-checked applications, and also included a signed affidavit from a man who said some of his relatives, who aren’t citizens, received the mailing.

“This is how the Texas Democratic Party is inviting foreign influence in an election in a federal election cycle,” said Logan Churchwell, spokesman for the PILF, a group that’s made its mark policing states’ voter registration practices.

The organization sent complaints to Hidalgo and Starr counties in Texas complete with the affidavit and photos of the pre-marked voter applications.

The return address for the mailings was the State Democratic Executive Committee with an address in Austin that matches the state Democratic Party’s headquarters.

The letter is emblazoned with “Urgent! Your voter registration deadline is October 9.” It continues: “Your voter registration application is inside. Complete, sign and return it today!”

On the application, boxes affirming the applicant is both 18 and a U.S. citizen are already checked with an “X” in the Yes field.

The mailing also urges those who are unsure if they’re registered to “Mail it in.”

Party officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

David C. Kifuri Jr. said “several relatives” of his who are legal permanent residents but not citizens got the mailing, and were confused. He said in his affidavit he told them to report the mailing to local authorities and not to fill it out any further.

The Hidalgo County election office said it forwards all applications that arrive to the state for processing. Officials can’t tell whether something was pre-checked or not when it got to the applicant.

A county elections spokeswoman couldn’t say whether pre-checking the citizenship box was legal.

Mr. Churchwell, though, said it crosses lines because prosecutors looking into whether someone illegally registered to vote need to be able to see the intent of the applicant, and a pre-checked box defeats that.

The registration deadline passed Oct. 9.

Sam Taylor, spokesman for the Texas secretary of state, said in the run-up to that deadline they received “a pretty large volume of calls” from residents who had gotten the mailing. Some were noncitizens who were wondering whether the mailing meant there had been some change and they were now, in fact, able to vote.

In other cases people told the office mail was addressed to deceased relatives, including in some cases people who’d been long-dead.

“It looks like a case of really bad information they are using to send out these mailers,” Mr. Taylor said.

He said there is a state law against encouraging someone to falsify a voter application, but it would be up to investigators to decide if pre-checking a box rose to that level.

A Texas television station last week also reported on a woman who had already registered but got the party mailing and was afraid she would face difficulties trying to vote.

The state party told KRGV-TV it was using state data to send out its mailers, and said they made clear that voters must be eligible in order to register.

Mr. Churchwell said the party was putting immigrants in a tough position, as evidenced by the number of them who were calling state officials wondering if there’s been some change allowing them to vote.

“The victims will actually be the noncitizens,” he said.