Texas secretary of state apologizes for debunked claim of 95,000 ‘illegal voters’

David Whitley's confirmation vote has been postponed.

David Whitley during his confirmation hearing before the Texas Senate on February 7, 2019 (Screengrab/CBSDFW)
David Whitley during his confirmation hearing before the Texas Senate on February 7, 2019 (Screengrab/CBSDFW)

A new conspiracy theory emerged in the conservative echo chamber last month.

Republicans have made many baseless claims about voter fraud in recent years, even though instances of a person impersonating another voter to cast a fraudulent ballot are less common than shark attacks.

But this latest attempt wasn’t from some random corner of the internet.

The claim that as many as 58,000 ballots had been cast by 95,000 “illegal voters” in Texas since 1996 was made by the office of Texas secretary of state David Whitley (R).

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton (R) tweeted out the supposed “VOTER FRAUD ALERT.”

Whitley’s claim was amplified by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and featured heavily on Fox News, which inevitably led to it appearing on President Donald Trump’s Twitter timeline.

However, Whitley’s office backtracked in recent weeks, after outlets like the Texas Tribune noted that tens of thousands of the supposed “illegal voters” were actually U.S. citizens.


Whitley’s list contains at least 20,000 naturalized citizens who are eligible to vote. One county found that 18,000 of its citizens were improperly listed.

Now the Texas secretary of state’s confirmation vote — which was scheduled to occur in the state senate on Thursday — has been postponed, as Whitley acknowledged his errors in a letter to lawmakers.

“I have discovered that additional refining of the data my office provides to county voter registrars, both in substance and in timing, is necessary to ensure a more accurate and efficient list maintenance process,” Whitley wrote on Wednesday.

“I recognize this caused some confusion about our intentions, which were at all times aimed at maintaining the accuracy and integrity of the voter rolls,” he continued. “To the extent my actions missed that mark, I apologize.”

Whitley blamed the confusion on how his office’s press release was worded during his contentious confirmation hearing earlier this month.

Despite acknowledging the errors, Whitley reportedly sent the inaccurate list to Texas’ attorney general for investigation and possible prosecution.