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Texas Voting Rights

Former Secretary of State David Whitley back at Gov. Greg Abbott's office

Whitley had resigned as secretary of state just before he would have been kicked out of office without a confirmation vote.

Texas Secretary of State David Whitley at a state Senate Committee on Nominations hearing on Feb. 7, 2019. Whitley was app...

Texas Voting Rights

Whether it’s a botched voter citizenship review, legal battles over how the state draws its political maps, or the efforts to remove barriers to casting ballots, voting rights issues are the source of constant debate in Texas. Read The Texas Tribune’s comprehensive coverage of voting rights issues and tell us if you’ve encountered problems while trying to vote in Texas.

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Former Secretary of State David Whitley — who lost his job after presiding over a botched review of the citizenship of Texans on the voter rolls — is back to working at the governor’s office.

Whitley resigned from the post Monday just before he would have been kicked out of office without a state Senate confirmation vote, but he went straight back to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office where he was rehired on a $205,000 annual salary, according to the state comptroller’s office.

Whitley’s return to the governor’s office was first reported by The Dallas Morning News.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for confirmation on Friday, but a spokesman for the comptroller’s office, which oversees state employees, said Whitley was hired by the governor’s office under the title of “deputy director II.” The Texas Tribune had filed a records request for personnel documents on Thursday.

A longtime aide to the governor, Whitley left that office in mid-December when Abbott appointed him to serve as secretary of state. But his tenure was cut short after Democratic senators blocked his confirmation over a bungled effort to review the voter rolls for noncitizens that instead jeopardized the voting rights of tens of thousands of naturalized citizens.

A federal judge halted that review in late February over concerns that “perfectly legal naturalized Americans” were targeted in ways those born in the country were not. Whitley’s office eventually agreed to scrap the review to end the three federal lawsuits that were filed against the state. But the debacle left taxpayers on the hook for $450,000 in costs and attorney fees for the lawyers of the naturalized citizens and civil rights groups that alleged the review was unconstitutional and violated federal protections for voters of color.

The settlement did little to assuage Democratic senators who came out against his confirmation as early as February, echoed by dozens of civil rights and advocacy groups and the Texas Democratic Party. The Democrats held their block despite intense efforts by the governor to secure enough votes before time ran out on Whitley’s appointment.

“Let’s get this straight: David Whitley used taxpayer dollars to attack Texans' right to vote,” Texas Democratic Party executive director Manny Garcia said in a statement Friday. “Texans and the Texas Legislature said he had no business sitting in the Secretary of State office. He definitely has no business continuing to draw a six-figure salary on the taxpayer dime in the governor's office.”

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