House investigating voter irregularities in Kansas, Texas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Congressional investigations over voter irregularities expanded Thursday with Democratic lawmakers requesting information from state officials in Kansas and Texas.
The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent letters seeking communications related to the decision by Ford County, Kansas, to move the only Dodge City polling site outside of city limits for the 2018 midterm elections. It also is seeking communications about efforts in January by the Texas secretary of state’s office to purge voter rolls amid disputed claims that registered voters may not be U.S. citizens.
The four letters were signed by Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the Oversight Committee, and Rep. Jamie Raskin, chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
The spokeswoman for Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab said in an email they have acknowledged receipt of the request and “will respond accordingly.”
Jeff Mateer, first assistant attorney general in Texas, said in an emailed statement that they are reviewing the letter and “look forward to providing the committee with information that demonstrates our compliance with the law while ensuring free and fair elections.”
Spokespeople for Ford County Clerk Debbie Cox in Kansas and Secretary of State David Whitley in Texas did not immediately return messages seeking comment Thursday.
For about two decades, the only polling site for Dodge City’s 13,000 registered voters was the Civic Center in a mostly white part of town. Cox decided to move the site to the county Expo Center located outside of town and more than a mile from the nearest bus stop the month before the midterms. County officials have said the move was prompted by a planned construction project at the Civic Center, although work had not started by the time of the November election.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas sued Cox, arguing that moving the only polling site in Dodge City outside the city limits will make it more difficult for the city’s majority Hispanic population to vote because they tend to have less access to transportation and flexible work schedules. A federal judge refused to order the county to open a new polling location just days before the election, finding it was not in the public’s interest because it would likely create more voter confusion.
The letter to Cox from Democratic lawmakers acknowledges that Ford County recently settled a lawsuit and agreed to open additional polling sites in the city for future elections. However, it said they remained concerned that the decision to move the polling site last year may have impacted the voting ability of Dodge City residents. Their letter to Schwab seeks to determine the role of the Kansas secretary of state’s office in moving the polling site.
Texas’ bungled search for illegal voters began in January when state election officials released a deeply flawed list of 98,000 registered voters flagged as potential noncitizens. But it became almost immediately clear that the list wasn’t vetted and that the U.S. citizenship of tens of thousands of Texas voters had been wrongly questioned.
A federal judge in February called Texas’ scouring of voter rolls for noncitizens “a solution looking for a problem” and prohibited the state from removing any voters following lawsuits by civil rights groups.
Paxton had originally amplified the January announcement as a “VOTER FRAUD ALERT” in campaign fundraising emails before problems with the list emerged. President Donald Trump had also used the reports to renew his unsubstantiated claims of rampant voter fraud.
The fallout has put Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s hand-picked elections chief in jeopardy. Whitley was appointed in December but still needs confirmation in the Texas Senate, where Democrats signaled they have enough votes to reject him.
The letters from lawmakers ask that the requested communications be produced by April 11.
Associated Press Writer Paul Weber contributed to this story from Austin.