58,000 Noncitizens Voted in Texas, Top Election Official Says

The top election official in Texas said that his office discovered that nearly 95,000 non-U.S. citizens are registered to vote in the state and that about 58,000 of them have voted at least once.

Texas Secretary of State David Whitley said that his office identified the tens of thousands of illegal votes.

Voting in an election when the voter knows he or she isn’t eligible to vote is a second-degree felony in Texas. Whitley said his office sent the data to the Texas Attorney General’s Office to investigate and prosecute those who illegally voted.

“Integrity and efficiency of elections in Texas require accuracy of our state’s voter rolls, and my office is committed to using all available tools under the law to maintain an accurate list of registered voters,” Whitley said in a statement.

“Texas voters … should not have their voices muted by those who abuse the system,” he added.

The information came from Department of Public Safety records, which the Secretary of State’s office now plans on using to cross-reference with the state’s statewide voter registration database on a monthly basis to root out potential non-U.S. citizens who have registered to vote.

When they are identified, the office will notify the county in which the person is registered. If the person who has been identified doesn’t respond with proof within 30 days then their registered will be canceled.

“Our agency has provided extensive training opportunities to county voter registrars so that they can properly perform list maintenance activities in accordance with federal and state law, which affords every registered voter the chance to submit proof of eligibility,” Whitley said.

Groups that advocate for everyone possible to vote admitted that illegal voting does happen but said it doesn’t happen very much.

A voter in Texas hands out "I voted" stickers
A woman in Texas hands out “I voted” stickers to voters at the Rummel Creek Elementary polling place in Houston on Nov. 6, 2018. (Loren Elliott/Getty Images)

“There is no credible data that indicates illegal voting is happening in any significant numbers, and the Secretary’s statement does not change that fact,” Beth Stevens, voting rights legal director with the Texas Civil Rights Project, told the Houston Chronicle.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Ken Paxton confirmed that his office received the information from Whitley’s office.

“Every single instance of illegal voting threatens democracy in our state and deprives individual Texans of their voice. We’re honored to have partnered with the Texas Secretary of State’s office in the past on voter initiatives and we will spare no effort in assisting with these troubling cases. My Election Fraud Unit stands ready to investigate and prosecute crimes against the democratic process when needed,” he said in a statement.

From 2005 to 2017 the office prosecuted 97 people for voter fraud violations, and in 2018 alone it prosecuted another 33 defendants for election fraud violations.

Under Texas law, noncitizens who are in the United States legally can obtain driver’s licenses—but only citizens are eligible to vote.

Texas law does not require verification of a voter’s statement that they are a citizen, leading to the thousands of people illegally voting.

Illegal Immigrant Sentenced for Voting

The news came during the same week that an illegal immigrant from Mexico who admitted to voting was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Enrique Salazar Ortiz, a native of Mexico, was convicted of making a false statement on a passport application, unlawful voting by an illegal alien, and aggravated identity theft, reported the San Antonio Express-News.

Ortiz used a stolen identity to vote in the 2016 presidential election. The name on the stolen ID was Jesse Vargas Jr.

According to a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration released in 2017, illegal aliens steal hundreds of thousands of legal identities to gain employment. Up to 29 million illegal aliens are living in the United States, according to researchers at Yale University.

Vargas himself left the area as a teenager but someone used his identification to vote in local elections “since at least 1994,” Bexar County elections administrator Jacque Callanen told the Express-News, including in the 2008 Democratic primary.

A public defender told District Judge Fred Biery that the Vargas identity was used by four men in total and that Ortiz had just used it in the 2016 election.

Ortiz began using the name several years ago after buying it from a man in a bar for $20, she added.

In late 2018 Ortiz admitted to voting in the 2016 election but refused to tell authorities if he voted in any other elections, reported the Express-News.

The fake identification was detected by the State Department in December 2016 after Ortiz mailed in a passport renewal application for a passport that he had been using fraudulently for 10 years. He was arrested in August 2017.

When asked in court whether he knew what he was doing what was illegal, Ortiz said he did.

“Unfortunately, yes, I knew it was,” Salazar said.