A federal judge is ordering officials in Texas to stop removing people from its voter registration rolls after declaring that the state has not seen widespread voter fraud.
U.S. District Judge Fred Biery made the order in a Wednesday ruling, stating that Texas had made a "mess" after the secretary of state's office flagged about 95,000 individuals for a citizenship status review, according to NBC News.
Biery told officials from the 18 counties named as defendants that they could not remove people from the rolls without the court's approval. He also ordered acting Texas Secretary of State David Whitley to advise officials in Texas's remaining 254 counties not to remove voters from their rolls without court approval.
“As Robert Fulghum taught in ‘All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,’ always put things back where we found them and clean up our own messes,” Biery said.
Biery condemned Whitley's failed attempt to identify ineligible voters, saying in his ruling that state officials' solution was “inherently paved with flawed results.”
"Perfectly legal naturalized Americans were burdened with what the Court finds to be ham-handed and threatening correspondence from the state which did not politely ask for information but rather exemplifies the power of government to strike fear and anxiety and to intimidate the least powerful among us," Biery added.
Biery's ruling comes just over a month after Whitley's office announced that it had identified approximately 95,000 suspected ineligible voters. The office said at the time that 58,000 of those voters had cast a ballot in at least one election since 1996.
The announcement led President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE to renew his claims about rampant voter fraud in the state.
But the secretary of state's office backtracked on the announcement after discovering that its original list wasn't vetted properly and included U.S. citizens, according to NBC News.
At the beginning of February, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said he did not plan to investigate the 58,000 people flagged by the secretary of state as possible non-citizen voters.
Whitley's office responded to the ruling by thanking the judge for acknowledging that "the list maintenance process was performed in good faith," according to The Associated Press.
Last month's announcement about suspected ineligible voters has thrown Whitley's confirmation into question. The AP noted that every Democratic state senator has come out against his nomination.