Election Protection Victory: We Halted Texas’s Purge of Naturalized U.S. Citizens from the Voter Registration Roles

Lawsuit against Texas Secretary of State won restraining order, settlement to stop voter purge, protect voters

Represented by MALDEF, LUPE won a Temporary Restraining Order and later a settlement with the Texas Secretary of State protecting the voting rights of naturalized U.S. Citizens against the Secretary of State’s effort to purge them from the voter roles.

We sued when the Texas Secretary of State announced that thousands of registered voters would be purged from voter registration lists based on flawed driver’s license data. The Secretary of State’s justification was that they had once applied for a Texas driver’s license while not a U.S. Citizen, a completely bogus justification given that tens of thousands of Texas residents who receive driver’s licenses eventually naturalize as U.S. Citizens.

With the help of MALDEF, we won a restraining order in federal court when the judge recognized that naturalized U.S. Citizens would likely be purged from the roles. Indeed, we argued that the purge largely targeted naturalized U.S. Citizens for investigation and removal from voter lists based solely on the fact that they were born outside the United States, a clear violation of their equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act.

“They are going to purge 95,000 voters, and who are the voters? Latinos naturalized citizens,” said Juanita Valdez-Cox with La Union del Pueblo Entero in a  February interview with valleycentral.com. “The voter list was getting to people that have become US citizens naturalized citizens within the last three years.”

Related: Changing People’s Lives by Helping Them Access Citizenship and a Permanent Place in this Country.

In a strong victory for the voting rights of naturalized U.S. Citizens against voter suppression, the Secretary of State settled with plaintiffs in April, committing to reform the way it identifies voters for investigation of U.S. citizenship and withdrawing the election advisory sent to all counties earlier this year.

“Voter intimidation and voter purge can cause irreparable injury in very short order, so I am proud that MALDEF’s legal team named the counties as defendants and sought immediate relief,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel in a statement. “Protecting the Latino community sometimes requires taking bold and independent action to counter the aggressive efforts by constitutional violators to unduly restrict the vote.”

Related: Changing People’s Lives by Helping Them Access Citizenship and a Permanent Place in this Country.

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