This case challenges a discriminatory and baseless effort to target naturalized citizens, who are fully eligible to vote in Texas, to be purged from the voting rolls unless they re-establish their citizenship within 30 days of receiving a notice questioning their citizenship. In late January 2019, David Whitley, Texas’ Secretary of State, sent Texas counties a list containing 95,000 registered voters and directing the counties to investigate their voting eligibility. The list was based on DMV data the state knew was flawed and would necessarily sweep in thousands of citizens who completed the naturalization process after lawfully applying for a Texas drivers’ license. Naturalized citizens are entitled to full voting rights under our Constitution.
The Secretary of State’s reckless and unfounded accusations have left thousands of naturalized citizens outraged and fearful that their hard-won right to vote is in jeopardy, including our client, Nivien Saleh, a who gained her citizenship in January 2018, after living lawfully in the U.S. under a student visa and then an H1B visa since 1997. Ms. Saleh describes her experience voting for the first time in the March 2018 Texas primaries as “the culmination of many years of hard work” and “an experience I will always remember.” Finding herself wrongly accused of unlawfully registering to vote has left Ms. Saleh “apprehensive, insulted and angry.”
In February 2019, we filed a complaint and motion for preliminary injunction alleging that targeting naturalized citizens for a burdensome requirement to re-establish their citizenship or be stricken from the rolls constitutes discrimination based on national origin in blatant violation of equal protection. Our claims also include undue burden on the right to vote in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendment; arbitrary and disparate treatment; violation of procedural and substantive due process; and intentional discrimination and unlawful disparate impact under the Voting Rights Act. On February 27, 2019, the U.S. District Court in Texas granted our request for a preliminary injunction, ordered counties not to remove anyone from the rolls, and ordered the Secretary of State to instruct non-party counties not to remove anyone either.
MOVE Texas Civic Fund, JOLT Initiative, League of Women Voters of Texas, Nivien Saleh
ACLU-TX, Texas Civil Rights Project, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, National ACLU