Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Turns Up Heat on DPS as Culprit in Flawed Check of Possible Noncitizen Voting

AUSTIN -- Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday sharply chided the Department of Public Safety, which he blames for flubbed handling of a recent inquiry into possible noncitizen voting.Abbott threw a flurry of punches at DPS, tying its performance on an error-plagued check of whether ineligible foreigners are registered voters in Texas to a more commonly known vexation for residents -- long waits at state driver's license offices."The way DPS has handled driver's licenses in the state of Texas is despicable and it has been non-responsive," Abbott said."And it seemed like they deployed that same, non-responsive approach in dealing with the secretary of state on this [noncitizen voting] issue. And that's unacceptable to me," Abbott said during a news conference about economic development at the Governor's Mansion.Praise for Whitley, not McCrawAbbott continued to stand by his recent nominee to be secretary of state, long-time aide David Whitley. The Republican governor hurled criticisms at DPS and its long-time director, Steve McCraw."David is working very collaboratively with county officials ... on the ongoing effort to make sure that the process of dealing with voter rolls and following both the federal and state laws will be handled as smoothly as possible," Abbott said.Abbott said the review of DPS records to see if noncitizens are on voter rolls is part of Whitley's duty "to promote fair elections."Asked if McCraw needs to be held accountable for mistakes, Abbott took a more sharply negative tone.He referred to deputy DPS director Skylor Hearn's appearance before the Senate Transportation Committee last week. Hearn said DPS' list of noncitizen driver's license applicants inadvertently included people who had proved to DPS that they had become naturalized U.S. citizens. Hearn blamed a miscommunication with the secretary of state's office.Driver's license waits cited"Listen, I saw testimony of an official of the Department of Public Safety to a Senate committee that was very disturbing," Abbott said. "My takeaway from what I saw is that he treated this issue the same way that the Department of Public Safety treats the issue of driver's licenses with regard to Texans."A DPS spokeswoman could not be reached immediately.Currently, DPS processes driver's licenses. However, some lawmakers have proposed shifting that responsibility to the Department of Motor Vehicles and adding more funding to hire more clerks.For nearly a year, Whitley's office has been conferring with DPS about comparing voter rolls with lists of noncitizens who lawfully obtained IDs. On Jan. 25, the secretary of state's office issued an advisory asking county election officials to check on nearly 100,000 voters' eligibility.At least 25,000 of the people already had satisfied DPS they were U.S. citizens. Democrats, civil rights groups and advocates of greater voter participation howled, saying a good many of the rest may have become naturalized after obtaining their driver's licenses or photo IDs from DPS. Such people have no duty to tell DPS when they become citizens.The flap, which triggered three lawsuits against the state, thrust Whitley's Senate confirmation into doubt after all 12 Democratic senators told The Dallas Morning News they would not vote to confirm him.Abbott, though, is still pushing for his nomination. He noted that he and Whitley recently made trips to South Texas, where three Democratic senators may be wavering.Last week, Abbott for the first time publicly criticized DPS and McCraw for providing Whitley's office with "faulty information."Abbott's comments on a radio-talk show came a day after U.S. District Judge Fred Biery of San Antonio called the review of possible noncitizen voting "ham-handed" in its implementation and said it burdened naturalized citizens who had registered to vote.Biery told more than a dozen counties named in the suit not to remove anyone from the voter rolls without his approval.  Continue reading...

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