The Texas secretary of state confirmed on Tuesday that it is working with election officials to winnow down the list of tens of thousands of registered voters going back to 1996 that the state's attorney general said on Friday were noncitizens, after a fierce backlash from liberal groups that questioned the accuracy of the claims.
Officials in the state made the bombshell announcement Friday that roughly 95,000 people identified as noncitizens in the state's driver's license and ID databases matched individuals in voter registration records. About 58,000 of those people voted in at least one election, state officials said.
But on Tuesday, reports surfaced that local election officials were told by state elections administrators that some of the names were included "in error," in part because many individuals whose names appeared on the list may have become naturalized citizens and therefore cast legal ballots.
“As part of the process of ensuring that no eligible voters are impacted by any list maintenance activity, we are continuing to provide information to the counties to assist them in verifying eligibility of Texas voters," Sam Taylor, the communications director for the Texas secretary of state, said in a statement to Fox News. "This is to ensure that any registered voters who provided proof of citizenship at the time they registered to vote will not be required to provide proof of citizenship as part of the counties’ examination.”
The New York Times reported that the state's findings on Friday were a result of an 11-month investigation into records at the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Gov. Greg Abbott praised the findings and hinted at future legislation to crack down on voter fraud. And President Trump cited the Texas numbers over the weekend to revisit claims of rampant voter fraud.
"58,000 non-citizens voted in Texas, with 95,000 non-citizens registered to vote," Trump tweeted over the weekend. "These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. All over the country, especially in California, voter fraud is rampant. Must be stopped. Strong voter ID!"
But Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole said Tuesday that state officials told her they'd discovered that some voters on the list previously provided proof of citizenship.
Near Austin, Williamson County Election Administrator Chris Davis says the state also called him. He says there is a "significant" number of voters whose citizenship is no longer in question.
The news comes one day after civil rights groups demanded that Texas officials walk back their initial claims.
The ACLU, along with a dozen other voter and minority rights groups, sent election officials a letter calling the state's method for identifying non-citizens "deeply flawed" and warning that local officials who took voters off their rolls based on those records risked violating federal law.
"The methodology your office apparently employed to identify such voters looks deeply flawed, and its origins and intent are highly suspect," the letter read.
On Monday, several Texas county election chiefs said they didn't know how many of these alleged matches would hold up once they investigated.
Even Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Trump ally who said last week his office was ready to prosecute cases, told supporters in a fundraising email that "many of these individuals may have been naturalized before registering and voting, which makes their conduct perfectly legal."
Nearly 16 million people in Texas are registered to vote. The potential non-citizen matches found by the state go back as far as 1996, said Sam Taylor, a spokesman for the Texas secretary of state's office.
Taylor said Monday that his office used "our strongest possible matching criteria to make sure each of the matches was the same person." He said that although county election chiefs were instructed Friday in a written advisory to treat the names as "WEAK matches" while they investigate,
Taylor said it did not "mean the criteria used to match the names was weak."
Lisa Wise, the election administer in El Paso County along the U.S.-Mexico border, said she received a list of 4,100 potential noncitizens. She said her office would investigate, but that after a first scan she could tell all of the names wouldn't hold up.
Wise said that at naturalization ceremonies for new U.S. citizens, her office registers between 150 and 200 to people alone.
"Anything is possible," she said. "But I can tell just from our list, and I don't know what anyone else's looks like, but I can tell that universe is going to continue to shrink."
Allegations of voter fraud have become increasingly common in recent years. Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, pointedly refused to call her victorious opponent, Brian Kemp, the "legitimate" governor of the state, citing what she called voting irregularities. Abrams will deliver her party’s response to Trump’s State of the Union address next week.
And no representative has been seated yet in the race for North Carolina's 9th District, amid allegations that voter fraud helped the Republi
The White House created a commission in 2017 to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the 2016 election. But it was eventually dismantled by Trump after the group faced lawsuits, opposition from states and in-fighting among its members.
Trump said at the time that Democrats refused to hand over data “because they know that many people are voting illegally.”
Democrats have dismissed claims of voter fraud and accused Republicans of trying to disenfranchise minority voters through rigid voter ID laws.
Fox News' Adam Shaw and The Associated Press contributed to this report.