Emails Show Gov. Greg Abbott Masterminded Texas' Failed Voter Citizenship Review

click to enlarge Gov. Greg Abbott - Gage Skidmore
Gage Skidmore
Gov. Greg Abbott
Emails made public Tuesday show Texas Gov. Greg Abbott initiated the bungled purge that risked pushing up to 100,000 people off the state's voter rolls.

The state abandoned the project in April after being sued by civil-rights groups, who alleged that the review by Texas Secretary of State David Whitely — ostensibly to remove noncitizens from voter rolls — wrongly targeted naturalized citizens. Whitley resigned late last month after it was clear he wouldn't be confirmed by the Texas Senate in the wake of the debacle.

But email correspondence provided by the League of United Latin American Citizens — one of the groups that sued over the purge — suggest that Abbott, not Whitley, spurred the review.

The governor urged officials at the Department of Public Safety to provide the driver's license data that Whitely's office used to crosscheck voter rolls, according to state email exchanges. "We delivered this information earlier this year, and we have an urgent request from the governor’s office to do it again," DPS official John Crawford said in a message dated August 27, 2018.

The correspondence also shows that the Secretary of State's Office and DPS communicated about such a review as early as March 2018. Whitley didn't become secretary of state until December of last year.

“This was the governor's project from the beginning,” LULAC National General Counsel Luis Vera told the Current. “It started 10 to 11 months before Whitley even got there. The governor threw him under the bus and threw the head of DPS under the bus. He's a racist pig, and he does this every time."

After press reports of flaws in the data used to check voter rolls, Abbott blamed DPS, saying its handling of drivers licenses was "despicable."

Abbott's office had no immediate comment on the emails shared by LULAC. The first reporting on the email correspondence appeared Tuesday in the San Antonio Express-News.

Texas ultimately settled the lawsuits over the purge at a cost to taxpayers of $450,000. The state now faces a congressional investigation over its handling of voter rolls.

Days after resigning his oversight of Texas' voter rolls, Whitley ended up back on the state's payroll, taking a $205,000-a-year position in Abbott's office.

Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.


Since 1986, the SA Current has served as the free, independent voice of San Antonio, and we want to keep it that way.

Becoming an SA Current Supporter for as little as $5 a month allows us to continue offering readers access to our coverage of local news, food, nightlife, events, and culture with no paywalls.

Join today to keep San Antonio Current.

Scroll to read more San Antonio News articles

Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.

Join SA Current Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.