WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, Sept. 29, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s Aug. 2 decision ordering Texas Secretary of State John Scott (R) to produce documents pertaining to the state’s voter purge program, which flags registered voters as potential noncitizens and thereby risks these voters’ registration status. Today’s decision originates from a lawsuit filed by the Campaign Legal Center, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Texas, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Dēmos against Scott alleging that his failure to provide records regarding the state’s recently implemented voter purge program violates the Public Disclosure provision of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The voter purge program at the center of the lawsuit uses Department of Public Safety (DPS) records — which are often outdated and therefore do not always reflect a person’s current citizenship status — to determine citizenship status. This system puts eligible voters who were naturalized more recently or whose citizenship information is not up to date in the DPS database at risk of being unlawfully purged from the voter rolls.
In yesterday’s decision, the 5th Circuit reversed the district court’s order requiring Scott to produce records pertaining to over 11,000 registered voters identified as potential noncitizens. In its opinion, the 5th Circuit concluded that the plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit lacked standing to bring their claim under the NVRA and “offered no meaningful evidence regarding any downstream consequences from an alleged injury in law under the NVRA.” In other words, the court held that the plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit did not suffer any concrete harm “from not obtaining the requested personal voter information.”