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Harris County wins challenge on citizenship checks on new voters

A Texas court rejected a conservative group’s demand that Harris County automatically reject, or at least investigate, voter registration forms submitted by people who say they aren’t U.S. citizens, delivering a win to the county registrar Wednesday.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation said it uncovered dozens of examples of people who had not only been added to the voter rolls but even cast ballots — only to later be stricken from the rolls because they had not actually been citizens at the time.

PILF had asked the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston to issue an order demanding the registrar do more to weed out those instances. The court dismissed the request.

“This was the correct outcome,” said Registrar Ann Harris Bennett.

She had downplayed the PILF investigation, with her office saying the instances found were “mistakenly accepted almost a decade ago” and were “promptly” caught and corrected.

Logan Churchwell, a PILF staffer who compiled the data for the lawsuit, said they are assessing their legal options, but said their investigation stands on its own.

“The facts are still clear: Harris County has proven to register foreign nationals to vote despite their admitting at the time to be foreign nationals,” he said. “We must not lose sight of the fact that Harris County, by all appearances, has set these immigrants up to fail despite their honesty about their lacking eligibility.”

PILF’s investigation looked at voters the county itself had once registered, then later kicked of its rolls because it realized they weren’t citizens.

In at about 50 cases, PILF found, the people had actually told officials they weren’t citizens, checking “NO” next to that question on the registration form. In five other cases PILF found, they left that field blank. They were registered anyway.

PILF said they were usually taken off the rolls after they responded to some subsequent government communication, such as a jury summons, by asserting they weren’t in fact citizens.

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