PILF: Texas Court Lacks Jurisdiction in Noncitizen Voter Data Case

Foundation Intervenes to Protect Federal Inspection Rights

(AUSTIN, TX.) – April 12, 2018: The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) intervened in a lawsuit to urge a Travis County court that federal inspection rights of noncitizen voter registration records must be honored in Harris County (Harris Bennett v. Texas, D-1-GN-18-001583).

The PILF exercised its right to seek intervention under Texas law in a suit brought by Harris County after the State ruled that significant portions of the organization’s request for noncitizen voter documents should be fulfilled.

Despite Attorney General Ken Paxton’s generally favorable ruling for the PILF’s requests, Harris County ignored the ruling and did not provide the requested documents. The County brought a state action to void the ruling and PILF opted into intervene, declaring the Texas court lacks jurisdiction for the matter, given that federal inspection rights—not Texas open records laws—are being utilized to access records.

The intervention filing notes:

In order for this Court to have jurisdiction, there must be an actual request for information under the [Texas Public Information Act] at issue in the first place. No request exists here … [Harris County’s] Petition does not accurately and fully describe the facts regarding the Foundation’s communications with the [County].

Harris County refused to allow the foundation to inspect or be furnished documents related to noncitizen registered voters either reporting their own unlawful registration or discovered thanks to officials efforts. The County’s attempts to use Texas law to limit PILF’s visibility toward records constituted an apparent violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. The PILF filed a federal lawsuit in response.

“Harris County’s efforts to wall-off these noncitizen voter registration documents are bad policy and bad government,” PILF President and General Counsel J. Christian Adams said. “PILF will persist here in Harris County to obtain election maintenance records as well as across the country to publish findings of system failures. We have a right as voters to know how and when our election systems fail us.”

For the purposes of the state action, the PILF seeks to act as a Defendant Intervenor beside Texas Attorney General Paxton.

For a detailed look at the fact pattern leading to the federal lawsuit, click here.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation has built a record of case studies uncovering noncitizen voter registration and voting in a growing number of states.

  • In October 2016, PILF found noncitizens registered to vote in Philadelphia. Half of those voted in at least one election.
  • In May 2017, PILF found 5,556 voters removed by the Commonwealth of Virginia as “non-citizens”. Roughly 33% voted. This research followed an initial October 2016 sampling that yielded 1,000 noncitizens.
  • In September 2017, PILF found 1,069 noncitizens within New Jersey’s voter registration system.
  • In October 2017, PILF testified before the Pennsylvania House State Government Committee on the matter of noncitizen voting in the state and encouraged an official review to identify more ineligible voters. Testimony was taken again by the PA Senate State Government Committee in December 2017.
  • In January 2018, PILF put Bexar County, Texas, on notice that it will file a federal lawsuit if officials continue to refuse inspection of voter records belonging to noncitizens discovered or self-reported.
  • In February 2018, PILF sued the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for failing to disclose noncitizen voter records under the NRVA.
  • In March 2018, PILF sued Harris County, Texas for failing to disclose noncitizen voter records under the NRVA.

The Texas court documents and exhibits may be accessed at the PILF website, here.

The state court action was filed in the District Court of Travis County, Texas, 459th District. The case number is D-1-GN-18-001583.

Attorneys for the Public Interest Legal Foundation are J. Christian Adams, Noel H. Johnson, and Joseph Vanderhulst. Brenham-based Andy Taylor of Andy Taylor & Associates, P.C. serves as local counsel.

Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) is a 501(c)(3) public interest law firm dedicated to election integrity. The Foundation exists to assist states and others to aid the cause of election integrity and fight against lawlessness in American elections. Drawing on numerous experts in the field, PILF seeks to protect the right to vote and preserve the Constitutional framework of American elections.

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