Ellis Raises Concerns Over SOS Voter Purge
High rate of "dead" voters are actually alive and well
(AUSTIN, TX) — State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), today sent the following letter to Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade regarding implementation of legislation to purge dead voters from county voting rolls. According to published reports, Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar Don Sumners has raised the alarm over many errors.
September 11, 2012
The Honorable Hope Andrade
Texas Secretary of State
Texas Capitol, Room 1E.8
Austin, TX 78701
Dear Secretary Andrade:
Yesterday, my office was contacted by a number of constituents who received letters from Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar Don Sumners. The letters stated that Sumners' office had obtained information indicating that the constituent is deceased and, unless they respond to the letter within 30 days, their voter registration will be cancelled. It is my understanding that Sumners received this information from your office and that you are acting under the requirements of H.B. 174 (82nd Regular Session).
I have grave concerns that very much alive and registered voters — not only in my senatorial district, but across all of Texas — will be disenfranchised as a result of this clearly flawed voter purge. I therefore have the following questions:
- H.B. 174 went into effect on September 1, 2011. Is this the first set of letters sent out to supposedly deceased voters under the requirements of the bill? If so, why did it take a full year to implement H.B. 174? I find it quite alarming that the first effort to purge voters comes a mere two months before the general election.
- Clearly there are a number of errors in the database upon which your office is relying to comply with H.B. 174. Please provide information about the database. Do you have faith in the reliability of the database, and would you recommend any statutory changes to reduce the error rate?
- Given the number of responses Sumners' office has received from people stating that they are alive and thus received the letter in error, Sumners has indicated to the media that he does not plan on processing any of cancellations until after the election. What efforts can you undertake to urge other voter registrars across the state to also postpone any registration cancellations until after election day?
- Media reports show that your spokesman stated that even if voters are wrongly deleted from the roll as a result of this purge they still would be able to cast ballots on election day. Please explain how this will work. Will voters who are wrongly purged be forced to cast a provisional ballot? What documentation would a voter need to show that they were wrongly purged?
Given the fact that we are less than two months away from election day and less than a month away from the registration deadline, I ask that you respond in writing as soon as possible. If a process upon which you are relying to purge voters this close to the election is shown to be flawed, I urge you to do whatever possible to protect Texas voters' franchise. Our state and our voters deserve no less.
ATTACHMENTS: LETTER TO TEXAS SECRETARY OF STATE HOPE ANDRADE (PDF)