Florida isn’t the only state engaging in massive purges of tens or hundreds of thousands of voters, many of them entirely eligible to vote. A staggering percentage of Texas voters may find their right to vote suspended based on a whole range of illegitimate excuses.
More than 300,000 valid voters were notified they could be removed from Texas rolls from November 2008 to November 2010 – often because they were mistaken for someone else or failed to receive or respond to generic form letters, according to Houston Chronicle interviews and analysis of voter registration data…
Statewide, more than 1.5 million voters could be on the path to cancellation if they fail to vote or to update their 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…
State and federal laws require the nation’s voter rolls be regularly reviewed and cleaned to remove duplicates and eliminate voters who moved away or died. But across Texas, such “removals” rely on outdated computer programs, faulty procedures and voter responses to generic form letters, often resulting in the wrong people being sent cancellation notices, including new homeowners, college students, Texans who work abroad and folks with common names, a Chronicle review of cancellations shows.
The Secretary of State’s office says it automatically cancels voters only when there is a “strong match” between a new registration and an older existing voter – such as full name, Social Security number and/or date of birth.
However, each year thousands of voters receive requests to verify voter information or be cancelled because they share the same name as a voter who died, got convicted of a crime or claimed to be a non-citizen to avoid jury duty. Those voters receive form letters generated by workers in county election offices that “therefore may be more subject to error,” said Rich Parsons, a spokesman for the Secretary of State in emailed responses to the newspaper. Voters who fail to respond to form letters – or never receive them – get dropped.
Statewide, 21 percent of the people who received purge letters later proved they were valid voters, compared with 16 percent in Harris County, according to a Chronicle analysis of the latest U.S. Election Assistance Commission data. Other counties had higher percentages: 37 percent of voters who received removal letters in Galveston County were valid voters, 40 percent in Bexar County and 70 percent in Collin County.
This kind of thing goes on all over the place. Federal law requires each state to maintain a Qualified Voter File, a central list of all qualified voters. It also requires them to take steps to keep them as current as possible, which can obviously be very difficult — people die or move residences regularly, especially younger people like students. So they often rely on computer matching programs that search various databases to look for any discrepancies, which have a very high error rate. If a person’s entries in state or local databases conflict in any way — a missing middle initial, a slightly different address (like a missing or transposed apartment number), a single letter misplaced — they can be flagged and therefore purged from the voter rolls. And those differences don’t even have to be with their own entries in different databases; if their name is identical to someone else’s name, they could easily get flagged.
Michigan has a long history of doing this as well and our last secretary of state, Terri Lynn Land (now a member of the Republican National Committee) lost at least two court cases over such voter purges. Some of the registrations that are canceled or suspended are legitimate, of course, as the person has died or moved out of state and so forth. But it also results in thousands, sometimes tens or hundreds of thousands, of eligible voters being purged. And that is unacceptable.