Harris County is facing a new lawsuit over illegal aliens on its voter rolls. The suit, filed last week in Houston's U.S. District Court by the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), asks the court to force Harris County to turn over all information related to non-citizens who have registered to vote or have been found to have voted in the county. PILF initially requested the information from the Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar's Office last year, but the county refused to comply, citing Texas law that protects the privacy of some public information.
PILF has requested and received similar information on non-citizen voting from other jurisdictions in Texas and around the country. PILF spokesman Logan Churchwell says the goal is to get a clear picture of how big a problem this is, and what can be done to stop it. "How do they identify (illegal voters), how long does that take, what steps do they follow once a non-citizen is identified in the system, do they alert local law enforcement...we wanted to get a complete sense of what happens," he tells KTRH.
In the lawsuit, PILF cites testimony from former Harris County Registrars Mike Sullivan and Paul Bettencourt describing the growing problem of illegal voting in the county. "For over a decade now, we have public complaints from the county itself saying that this is an issue, and we want to see how much of a problem it is," says Churchwell.
But the current Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector, Ann Harris Bennett, doesn't see a problem, nor any reason to turn over the information. In a statement to KTRH, Bennett's office says they can't comment directly on the lawsuit because they haven't yet been served any legal documents. However, they do acknowledge PILF's request for voter registration data last year, saying: "Our office believed that under Texas Statute, some of the information could not be released to the public. Our office requested an opinion from the Texas Attorney General's Office and they concurred."
In the statement, Bennett adds that her office "is committed to protecting our citizens' right to privacy," adding, "Our office does not believe there is an issue with non-citizens voting and works to ensure that every eligible individual that wants to vote, can vote."