A Texas county has been hit with a lawsuit for concealing records in relation to noncitizens on voter rolls.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), an election integrity group, filed a complaint on Thursday against the Office of the Harris County Voter Registrar in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas for its refusal to disclose documents or allow the inspection of its voter rolls in relation to registrants who were removed after it was discovered that they were noncitizens.
“The Foundation seeks a declaration that all of Defendant’s records related to list maintenance, including but not limited to those explicitly requested by the Foundation, are subject to public inspection without encumbrance by any state public disclosure laws and must be preserved for such inspection purposes,” the complaint reads. “The Foundation seeks an injunction to compel Defendant Bennett to comply with Subsection 20507(i) through an order commanding her to permit inspection and duplication of all records concerning the maintenance of registration lists.”
Voter registration officials in Harris County previously testified that “thousands” of noncitizens were discovered on their rolls every year and then handed over to the District Attorney for prosecution. Houston, one of the largest cities in the United States, is located in Harris County.
PILF initially requested to review the records of Harris County on Dec. 1, 2017, but was ultimately denied access to the documents on Jan. 11. The group then sent a final notice to the county in late January warning that they could face a federal lawsuit if they continued to deny the group inspection of the records.
PILF is seeking access to the records under Section 8 of the National Voters Registration Act of 1993, which allows individuals to inspect “records concerning the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voters.”
“Harris County has previously admitted a problem with noncitizen registration and voting,” J. Christian Adams, president and general counsel of PILF, said of the suit. “Election officials should be transparent, and in fact are required by federal law to be transparent. Our requests to inspect records will help educate lawmakers and the public alike on how noncitizens are gaining entry into the voting system; how long they remain; how they vote; and what we can do to fix the issue. The question is not if—but how many noncitizens are participating? Harris County cannot expect to get away with avoiding its federal transparency responsibilities.”
The Harris County voter registrar did not return a request for comment by press time.
Another Texas County was also recently threatened with a lawsuit for withholding identical records in relation to noncitizens registered to vote.
Bexar County, which includes the city of San Antonio, also one of the most populous counties in the country, declined PILF’s request to inspect their rolls following discovery or admittance of noncitizens that were removed from the rolls in December.
PILF threatened the suit against Bexar County in late January.