Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ignore A Letter From The Elections Office And Get Purged From Voting

by Michael Handley

I have received a few emails and calls from friends asking my opinion about letters they or a family member recently received from the county election registrar indicating the office had received information that they were deceased. The letter said that [if they are alive,] they should immediately contact the election office, otherwise they will be purged from the voter registration data base. Thankfully, none of my friends had died or suffered a death in the family.

Statewide, more than 1.5 million voter records could be suspended and eventually purged if people fail to vote or update their voter registration records for two consecutive federal elections: One out of every 10 Texas voters' registration is currently suspended. Among voters under 30, the figure is about one in five. More than 300,000 valid voters were notified they could be removed from Texas rolls from November 2008 to November 2010 because they were mistaken for someone else who moved or died and failed to receive or respond to generic election office form letters.

State and federal HAVA laws require the nation's voter rolls be regularly reviewed and cleaned to remove duplicates and eliminate voters who move or die. This clean up cycle occurs every three months in Texas. But across Texas, such "removals" rely on outdated computer programs, faulty procedures and voter responses to generic form letters, often resulting in the wrong people being sent election status inquiry letters, including new homeowners, college students, Texans who work abroad and folks with common names.

The Secretary of State's office says it contacts counties to purge voters only when there is a "strong match" - such as full name, Social Security number and/or date of birth - between a U.S Post Office, Vital Records Dept. or other agency data feed record and an existing voter registration record. However, each year thousands of voters receive letters to verify voter information or be cancelled only because they share the same first name, last name and middle initial as a voter who died or was convicted of a crime.

Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade, recently sent lists of possible deceased voters to county elections administrators, totaling almost 77,000 names. The lists contain both “strong matches” and “weak matches” between the Social Security Administration's or Bureau of Vital Statistics' death records and the the Secretary of State's statewide TEAM data base of registered voters. Less than 9,000 of the nearly 77,000 names on list were considered strong record matches. Record matches where social security numbers and some combination of first, last and middle names, plus name suffix, date of birth and possibly other information match, are considered “strong record matches.” "Weak record matches" are where first and last names, plus middle name or initial and some other piece of information, like last Soc. Sec. number digits or county, match.

County election officials across Texas have been mailing "death notification" letters to nearly 80,000 voters on the list. The letters tells voters that they are presumed dead and have 30 days to notify election authorities, if they are alive. Voters who fail to respond will have their registration canceled.

Houston Chronicle - Monday, September 10, 2012:

Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Don Sumners said Monday that he would not purge from the voter roll before the November election any of the 9,018 citizens who received letters from his office in recent days notifying them that they may be dead and are at risk of having their registrations canceled. However, a spokesman for the Texas secretary of state, the office that generated the statewide list of about 80,000 voters, said Sumners’ move contradicts legislative directives. ”Our office has federal and state requirements to maintain an accurate and secure voter registration list. If any of those people are deceased, the law requires that they be removed from the voter registration list ,” Rich Parsons said. “Mr. Sumners’ decision would prevent that.” The letters, many of which were delivered Friday and Saturday, asked recipients to verify within 30 days that they are alive or be cut from the roll.

Sumners, who also is the county’s voter registrar, said conversations with the Secretary of State’s Office convinced him the list of possible dead was too unreliable to act on until after the Nov. 6 election. ”We’re not even going to process any of the cancellations until after the election,” Sumners said. “Because we’ve gotten such a response from people that say that they are still alive.”

Full Article: Voter purge canceled in wake of faulty death data – Houston Chronicle.

If you have not already received your new yellow 2012-13 voter registration card, you may not be registered to vote in the county where you currently reside. You should immediately check your registration status and take action to properly register, if you find you are not registered to vote in the county where you reside. To check your Collin Co. registration status - click here. To check your registration status in another Texas county - click here. If you find you are not registered to vote, you can find the Voter's Registration application by clicking here.

More details available at Your 2012 Collin Co. Voter Registration Card.

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