Starr County elections office taking action after federal order

RIO GRANDE CITY — The Starr County elections administration is still allowing voters to provide proof of citizenship after the Texas Secretary of State’s office issued a list of potential non-citizens on the voter rolls.

However, after a federal court order barred counties from removing anyone from the lists, the county will begin sending notices to voters informing they are not required to provide proof.

“But it is kind of recommended that if they do have the time or can come to the office: email it or fax us,” Alexy Rios, a clerk with the Starr County elections office, said. “If they don’t — they’re not forced to — that doesn’t mean their voter registration’s going to be canceled; they’re still going to be active.”

The order was issued last week by U.S. District Judge Fred Biery of San Antonio as a result of a lawsuit filed by civil rights groups — including the Texas League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, and La Union Del Pueblo Entero, or LUPE — against Secretary of State David Whitley and other state officials.

The suit was filed in response to a move from the secretary of state’s office to issue advisories to counties around the state that flagged potential non-voters on the voter rolls.

The move received backlash from the civil rights groups, which noted that the list of names were based off dated information from the Texas Department of Public Safety that indicated the person was not a U.S. citizen at the time they obtained a driver’s license or a personal ID card.

The groups argued that method was flawed because it didn’t take into account the possibility that those people became naturalized citizens afterward.

Before the lawsuits were filed, however, the Starr County elections office had already sent out notices to all the voters who were flagged by the state.

The county received a list of 242 such voters, according to Rios, but is now down to 142 names that are pending verification.

The 100 people that have reported to their office were all eligible voters, according to John Rodriguez, the elections administrator.

A few notices, though, have been returned by the post office and, after having conferred with attorneys, Rios said they will likely send out address confirmation forms to ensure those voters are residing at the addresses the elections office has on file.

“Just to make sure somebody does live there,” Rodriguez said, “or they have that current address registered with us.”