Not Giving Up, Embattled Texas Secretary of State David Whitley Asks Senate Dems for Another Chance

AUSTIN -- Acting Secretary of State David Whitley, whose confirmation has been stalled in the Texas Senate after a controversial advisory from his office questioned the citizenship of nearly 100,000 voters, has asked to meet with Senate Democrats following a settlement agreement that rescinded and re-worked the advisory on Friday. Sen. José Rodriguez, a Democrat from El Paso who leads the chamber's Democratic caucus, said Whitley asked to meet with the caucus on Tuesday. Rodriguez said he was polling the caucus to see if any member had an objection to Whitley attending the caucus meeting. The caucus meets on a regular basis during the session. "Obviously, he wants to talk about the settlement agreement," Rodriguez said. "For me, it doesn't change anything." In a statement, the secretary of state's office said: "Secretary Whitley welcomes the opportunity to meet with the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus to discuss the settlement agreement and voter registration list maintenance going forward. He looks forward to addressing the concerns of the Caucus and receiving feedback on ways to enhance access to the ballot box in Texas."In February, all 12 Senate Democrats said they could not support Whitley's nomination after he oversaw the botched attempt to cull the state's voter rolls of noncitizen voters. Within days of the advisory's release in January, state election officials had to call local elections administrators to tell them that thousands of names had been placed on the list erroneously. About a quarter - 25,000 - of the names placed on the initial lists for investigation sent to the counties, had already proven their citizenship to the state.Many county officials refused to begin investigations that could cancel the voter registration of the people on their lists because of the state's flawed data. State officials told a federal judge in February that they had found 83 people who had asked to be removed from the rolls after receiving notice from their counties that they were being investigated for not being citizens. Under the settlement agreement, the state would still be allowed to implement a maintenance process to cull its voter rolls, but it would have to rescind the January advisory and issue a new one with guidelines to avoid many of the missteps in the original. The state will also pay $450,000 in attorney's fees to the plaintiffs. Whitley's confirmation requires the support of two-thirds of senators, or 21 of them if all 31 are present for the vote. The Senate has 19 Republicans who would probably support the governor's nominee, but without the support of any Democrats, confirmation is mathematically impossible.It's unclear whether the recent settlement in the case would convince any of the Democrats to change their mind on Whitley. Advocacy groups are pressuring Senate Democrats to block his confirmation. On Monday, 22 groups including several that participated in the lawsuit against Whitley, sent a letter to the caucus urging them to vote against his confirmation. "While we are grateful that the legal challenges to Mr. Whitley's actions have been resolved, the settlement does not let Mr. Whitley off the hook for his decision to target tens of thousands of naturalized Americans for disenfranchisement and wrongful criminal prosecution," the letter read."Texans deserve better than Mr. Whitley. Public service is a privilege, not a right, and there are a number of other qualified people that the Governor can appoint to this position," the letter read. "We ask you to continue to block Mr. Whitley's confirmation, so that we as a State can turn the page on the Whitley scandal and continue to have faith in our elections system."If the Senate takes a vote and Whitley is rejected, he would have to leave office immediately. If the Senate does not take a vote on his confirmation, he will have to step down when the legislative session ends May 27.  Continue reading...

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