Harris County election judges' manual essentially implements Voter ID, endangering right to vote for thousands
Senator Ellis has learned that the official manual used by Harris County to train election judges in the rules and procedures governing the 2011 elections contains erroneous information which could turn away from the polls potentially thousands of otherwise eligible Harris County voters.
The manual fails to state that a prospective voter is allowed to vote by producing only a voter registration card, essentially establishing the provisions of the controversial Voter ID law this year instead of elections in 2012.
October 31, 2011
The Honorable Stan Stanart
Harris County Clerk
Harris County Civil Courthouse
201 Caroline Suite 310
Houston, TX 77002
Dear Mr. Stanart:
I write with serious concerns regarding the election law training your office is conducting in advance of next Tuesday's election. My office has been contacted by two election judges that participated in a training session led by your office on October 29, 2011. Both judges were astonished to realize that the Election Day Law and Operations Manual, which bears your name, erroneously states current Texas law and thus may be used to turn away eligible voters from the ballot box. Further, when these errors were pointed out, it was reported to me that your staff was dismissive and failed to make any effort to correct the manual.
As you know, the Election Day Law and Operations Manual serves as the official reference document for Harris County election judges during the upcoming election. The manual was distributed as part of the mandatory training for all election judges and alternate judges in Harris County. On page 23, under the headline "Qualifying the Voter," the manual lists the documentation that is considered an acceptable form of identification under the Texas Election Code. This is the list reprinted exactly as it appears in the manual:
The following documentation is an acceptable form of identification:
- Driver's license, election identification certificate, or personal identification card issued to the person by the Department of Public;
- Photo identification that establishes the person's identity
- Birth certificate
- United States citizenship papers;
- United State passport issued to the person;
- official mail addressed to the person by name from a governmental entity; or
- a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, pay check, or other government document that shows the person's name and address.
Source: Election Day Law and Operations Manual, Fall 2011, Stan Stanart, Harris County Clerk
First, nowhere does the manual indicate that a prospective voter is allowed to vote by producing only a voter registration card. As you may know, Section 63.001 of the Texas Election Code currently provides that a voter registration card is sufficient for purposes of identifying the voter. By failing to include this information in your manual, an election judge utilizing the manual as the official reference document could erroneously turn away otherwise eligible voters that may have arrived with nothing more than their voter registration card. Given the confusion regarding the timing and implementation of Senate Bill 14 (82R), this oversight is especially troubling.
Second, the manual lists an "election identification certificate" as an acceptable form of identification. On the contrary, an election identification certificate is not available to any Texan as of today. Indeed, it will only become available on January 1, 2012, provided the Department of Justice does not object to the implementation of Senate Bill 14. Including a nonexistent form of identification in your list will only serve to confuse election judges.
Third, the manual states that a driver's license, election identification certificate, or personal identification card must have been issued to the person by the "Department of Public." There is no such federal, state, or local agency. While I clearly assume you are referring to the Department of Public Safety, that is not what the manual states, and, once again, this will only serve to confuse election judges. Details matter, especially when we're dealing with something as important as the right to cast one's vote.
Given that early voting is already well underway, I ask that you immediately correct the errors outlined above and redistribute the manual to all election judges and alternate judges in Harris County. I ask that you respond to this letter no later than November 3, 2011 detailing what actions you are taking to rectify this situation.