Senator Rodríguez’s Statement on the Secretary of State Nomination
AUSTIN, TX – The following statement was released by State Sen. José Rodríguez:
While Secretary of State nominee David Whitley has apologized for his agency’s rash, premature actions touting widespread voter fraud, it is too little, too late. His belated apology does little to repair the damage already done to those who want to lawfully exercise their right to vote but may be dissuaded by the accusatory scrutiny of their eligibility. Public testimony during Mr. Whitley’s Senate Nominations hearing and the recent federal court hearing suggest that this has already happened.
This all stems from Secretary nominee Whitley’s Jan. 25 press release, which indicated a level of certainty that he and other officials now admit they did not have about the data regarding non-citizens registering to vote and/or casting ballots. The press release created the impression that widespread voter fraud had been detected. This is clear from subsequent coverage and comments by elected leaders in and out of Texas, including the President tweeting incorrectly that 58,000 non-citizens voted in Texas. To date, neither Secretary nominee Whitley nor any other Texas leader has directly addressed the President’s false statement. Meanwhile, the Attorney General has aggressively promoted the false premise that there is widespread voter fraud.
Texas has a long history of voter suppression. Whether it was the imposition of a poll tax, which existed until 1966; the need for the federal government to provide oversight because of its history of excluding Mexican-Americans from the political process; or voter ID laws, the state has always tipped the scales toward less, not more, voter participation.
One of the primary roles of the Texas Secretary of State is to serve as the Chief Election Officer. In a state that consistently ranks dead last in voter participation, any Secretary of State’s goal should be to promote, not discourage, civic engagement.
After realizing the errors made by his office and given the potential for voter intimidation, Mr. Whitley should have immediately corrected the record and stated unequivocally that he had no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Even though recent reports indicate at least a quarter if not more of those included in the list are in fact citizens, no such statement has been issued to date by Mr. Whitley or his office.
I firmly believe in the Governor’s prerogative to make appointments; only in extreme circumstances would I not defer to the Governor’s choices. In this case, however, the damage has been done. Many Texans mistakenly believe evidence of voter fraud has been found. Many now fear to vote, even though they are eligible. Although it is a difficult decision, I cannot support Mr. Whitley’s nomination to serve as Secretary of State.
José Rodríguez represents Texas Senate District 29, which includes the counties of El Paso, Hudspeth, Culberson, Jeff Davis, and Presidio. He represents both urban and rural constituencies, and more than 350 miles of the Texas-Mexico border. Senator Rodríguez currently serves as the Chairman of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus, and is a member of the Senate Committees on Agriculture (Vice Chair), Transportation, Natural Resources and Economic Development, and Water and Rural Affairs.