Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

2016 ballot

Documents from President Donald Trump's defunct election commission reveal that a researcher requested that Texas records identify voters with Hispanic surnames. (Photo: Frankie Leon/cc/flickr)

'Deeply Disturbing': Trump's Defunct Voter Commission Wanted Those With Hispanic Surnames Flagged in Texas

If fulfilled, warns expert, "Texas voters would have been subject to unreasonable and unlawful privacy risks."

Jessica Corbett

Raising fresh concerns about the intentions behind President Donald Trump's now-defunct "Commission on Election Integrity," newly released documents reveal a "deeply disturbing" request that Texas officials flag records for all voters with Hispanic surnames, according to the Washington Post

The commission—which was launched following Trump's unsubstantiated claims about rampant fraud and faced challenges from several states and advocacy groups—paid Texas $3,500 in September for nearly 50 million state voter records. The Post reports a commission researcher "checked a box on two Texas public voter data request forms explicitly asking for the 'Hispanic surname flag notation,' to be included in information sent to the voting commission."

Although the commission disbanded following several legal challenges and the state's records were never sent, Texas was expected to provide "lists of voters who were active, those with canceled registrations, and those with an outdated or incorrect address on file; and a list of those who voted in the past six general elections from 2006 through 2016," and "flags for the Hispanic surnames would be in the lists."

Justin Levitt, a professor and election law expert who oversaw voting rights for the Obama administration's Department of Justice, told the Associated Press the "deeply disturbing" request could suggest the commission was searching for non-citizens on Texas' voter rolls, and noted "that—I cannot say more emphatically—is the sort of discriminatory racial profiling that the constitution forbids in official government action."

Texas has one of the largest Hispanic populations in the country, second only to California. About a quarter of Texas' more than 15 million voters have Hispanic surnames, and the state identifies Hispanic voters in order to provide them with bilingual election notices, according to a spokesman for Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos.

Myrna Perez, a lawyer for the Brennan Center for Justice, said, "Texas voters would have been subject to unreasonable and unlawful privacy risks" had the commission continued its work. "The request from the commission was inappropriate to begin with," she added, "and it was inappropriate for Texas to have contemplated giving the data given their state privacy laws and the inability of the commission to protect voters' privacy."

The commission was led by Vice President Mike Pence as well as "notorious vote suppressor" Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who told the Post that the researcher who filed the request for Texas records "did not ask any member of the commission whether he should check that box or not" and "at no time did the commission request any state to flag surnames by ethnicity or race."

An anonymous White House official, meanwhile, claimed the commission "asked to identify Hispanic surnames to resolve data discrepancies or confusion caused by the traditional Spanish naming convention that uses the surnames of both parents."

The documents (pdf) detailing the Texas purchase were made public in response to a request by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) that the U.S. General Service Administration release records of its communications with Trump's election commission.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'A Deal's a Deal': Progressive Leader Holds Strong on $3.5 Trillion Social Investment Plan

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal says around 60 Democrats are willing to vote down a weaker bipartisan bill if the more sweeping reconciliation bill does not come first.

Jon Queally ·

Critics Fume as ICC Excludes US From Probe Into Afghan War Crimes

"Allowing powerful states to get away with multi-year, multi-continent torture against so many feeds impunity for all."

Andrea Germanos ·

Social Democrats, Greens Eye Coalition After Outgoing Merkel's Bloc Ousted in German Elections

Citing the need to act on the climate crisis, center-left SPD leader Olaf Scholz declared that "voters have clearly spoken."

Jon Queally ·

Trump's CIA Considered Kidnapping or Assassinating Assange: Report

"The Biden administration must drop its charges against Assange immediately."

Jake Johnson ·

'Carrying Water for Big Corporations': Sinema Faces Backlash for Opposing Tax Hikes

"Make no mistake, if she sides with her wealthy donors and kills popular investments to jump-start the economy, everyday families—including across Arizona—will pay the price."

Jake Johnson ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo