Texas state secretary who led failed voter purge steps down

Texas’ secretary of state, who led an unsuccessful effort to purge thousands of voters from the state’s rolls earlier this year in a move that critics said was intended to intimidate voters on a false narrative of widespread fraud, resigned Monday after failing to attract sufficient support in the state legislature to stay in the role.

David Whitley’s resignation has been accepted by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, according to a letter released by the governor’s office, CNN affiliates KXAN and KEYE reported.

Whitley, a Republican who had been appointed by Abbott in December, stepped down after falling short of the 21 state Senate votes he needed to remain in the role, according to the Austin American-Statesman, which first reported his resignation. CNN has reached out to Whitley’s and Abbott’s offices for comment.

Whitley was backed by the 19 Republican state senators, but Democratic state lawmakers opposed his confirmation after he launched a controversial initiative in January to purge individuals suspected of not being U.S. citizens from voter rolls in Texas, the Statesman reported.

Whitley’s biography has been taken down from the Texas secretary of state’s website and the page now reads “vacant.”

Whitley did not mention the citizenship initiative or lawsuit in his resignation letter, according to the Statesman, which reviewed a copy of the letter.

In the letter, Whitley reportedly thanked Abbott for the opportunity to serve, but did not mention anything about the controversial voter issue.

“To have your trust,” Whitley wrote, “goes beyond what I ever dreamed of as a kid growing up in a small South Texas community,” the Statesman reported.

Texas settled a lawsuit last month and agreed to end an initiative that a prominent Latino civil rights group, the League of United Latin American Citizens, said intimidated voters based on a false narrative of voter fraud.

The lawsuit, filed against Whitley and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, came in response to statements from the two Republican officials claiming Whitley’s office had discovered about 95,000 potential non-U.S. citizens registered to vote in the state. They said roughly 58,000 of those identified had voted in at least one Texas election.

Whitley’s office pledged to investigate and refer individuals who were improperly registered to county registrars for further action, but a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked the effort in February and said there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Judge Fred Biery called the attempt to comb through the voter rolls “ham-handed,” and said Whitley, “though perhaps unintentionally, created this mess.”

In the settlement, the state agreed to pay the plaintiffs $450,000 for legal fees and other costs, according to the settlement document.

CNN’s Eli Watkins and Devan Cole contributed to this report.