Legislators Praise Scientology »« King’s Hypocritical Reaction to Bombings

Texas Purges Living People From Voter Rolls

The Republican efforts to keep as many people from the polls — especially if they’re likely to vote Democratic — continues in many states. Texas is trying to purge its voter rolls of “dead” people but keeps hitting people who are very much alive. And here’s what happens when someone is wrongly purged from the state’s Qualified Voter File:

In Houston, high school nurse Terry Collins got a letter informing her that after 34 years of voting she was off the Harris County rolls. Sorry.

“Friday of last week, I got a letter saying that my voting registration would be revoked because I’m deceased, I’m dead. I was like, ‘Oh, no I’m not!’ ” Collins says.

In order to stay on the rolls, the 52-year-old nurse had to call and inform the registrar of her status among the living. She tried, but it didn’t go so well.

“When I tried to call I was on hold for an hour, never got anyone,” she says. “I called three days in a row and was on hold for an hour or more.”

And this is hardly an isolated problem:

Texas got the names off the Social Security Administration’s death list. Social Security warned Texas that the list shouldn’t be relied on, but to no avail. The state Legislature and Texas Gov. Rick Perry passed legislation last session mandating the change.

In Houston, after Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Don Sumners got hundreds of calls from elderly voters who’d gotten the death notice, he looked at the Social Security list that was being used.

“And then a quick check of some of the information on that database led us to believe that there was a big probability that even a majority of the names on the list were people that were still alive,” he says.

Sumners is refusing to go through with the purge, but other local election officials will probably go along with it. Florida had the same problem earlier this year with a voter purge that removed thousands of eligible voters from the rolls. Here in Michigan, the former Secretary of State lost at least two court cases over inaccurate voter purges and intentional attempts to engage in illegal voter caging. This is the real voter fraud.

Comments

  1. embertine says

    Wait, hang on. They sent her a letter stating, oh, sorry you died, I guess you’re not allowed to vote anymore then what with the whole No Suffrage for the Undead thing.

    Who did they think was going to be reading the letter then? Her troubled spirit, forced to wander the earth haunting idiotic Republican governors?

  2. ibbica says

    OK this all sounded a bit weird to me… so please excuse an ignorant non-US resident, but this SSA “death list” is a list of people who’ve been reported dead to the SSA, right? “Reported” by whom?

    In trying to figure out how this thing works, I stumbled on this:

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/OTUS/loved-die-identity-taking/story?id=16304478

    …which rather pointedly would explain why you wouldn’t want (1) to be on that list if you’re not dead and (2) people whose names are on that list voting.

    (Hint: that list makes identity theft REALLY bloody easy.)

    If it’s so ‘unreliable’, why does it still exist? And who’s putting people on that list who aren’t dead?

  3. says

    They sent her a letter stating, oh, sorry you died…

    Yeah, that kinda proves the Texas tyrants know they’re using a false rationale.

    And then there’s the timing, which proves their true intent even more clearly.

  4. Abby Normal says

    From the article it seems that the elderly are the most common victims of the purge. It was pointed out in another recent blog post of Ed’s that the elderly tend to vote Republican. Is there something I’m missing or does the following seem out of place in this post?

    The Republican efforts to keep as many people from the polls — especially if they’re likely to vote Democratic — continues in many states.

  5. says

    @ibbica #3 – Of all possible tools for purging voter roles, this is the one that is, by far, the easiest to dishonestly manipulate. I would not at all be surprised to find out that local and state Republican parties are submitting the names of people who meet specific demographic criteria.

  6. says

    Oh, and don’t most local governments keep track of reported deaths? Where do those things called “death certificates” come from? Generally when someone is found dead, someone calls 911, which immediately results in an incident being documented by some organ of the local government. (And if no one reports him dead, isn’t that suspicious, or possibly a crime, in itself?) So why can’t the state government cross-check such documented incidents against their voter rolls? Are they that much less sophisticated than us Virginia city-slickers?

    When my dad died, he was found by a housecleaner, who called the cops, and soon after that I got a death certificate, which I had to use to collect insurance money and get the ball rolling to have his remains interred at Arlington Cemetary. So if he’s still on the voter rolls, he’s on them at his last address, which means the state authorities know which county government to call to see whether a person by that name at that address died. Seriously, how hard is this?

  7. eric says

    Even if the removals are random, forcing people to spend hours out of their day, for multiple days, in order to regain the right to vote is a pretty effective conservative strategy. The people who can afford the time to get their voting rights back are generally going to be the ones who are better off.

  8. Chiroptera says

    Abby Normal, #5:

    I suspect that not just any random elderly person may be removed from the voting rolls. There is probably some sort of selection criteria.

    Like zip code. If I recall correctly, during the last election, Republican led voting purges tended to hit hardest the zip codes where people predominantly voted Democrat.

  9. Francisco Bacopa says

    The Harris County Clerk’s office and a few other counties in Texas are refusing to purge the rolls of people who don’t respond to the “you are dead” letter until after the election.

  10. ibbica says

    @2 and 4: Does anyone know what the actual content of the letters is? (Just the non-personally-identifying text, no I do *not* want names, SSNs, and addresses! Although apparently you can find much of that on SSA’s publically-available list anyway… huh.)

    I can certainly see how it would be simpler for a government to address any mail meant for an estate of a (presumed) deceased person (e.g. demands to return excess SS funds, notifications of cessation of payments, etc.) to the deceased person, rather than actually tracking down their executor, nearest living relative, etc. Although yeah, I’d expect the letters to be addressed to “The estate of Ms. Jane Doe”, and to refer to Ms. Doe in the third person, rather than “Ms. Doe, we are ceasing SS payments because you are dead.”

    Not that I’d necessarily put it past them, of course…

  11. ibbica says

    Gregory in Seattle

    Of all possible tools for purging voter roles, this is the one that is, by far, the easiest to dishonestly manipulate. I would not at all be surprised to find out that local and state Republican parties are submitting the names of people who meet specific demographic criteria.

    How, though? I mean, can I call up the SSA and tell them that my (hypothetical) annoying neighbour is dead and then *poof* they’re on the list? Or are a bunch of coroners/doctors/SSA administrators in on the conspiracy? Or…?

  12. greg1466 says

    I wonder how long it would take the state to figure out they are still alive if they quite paying taxes?

  13. says

    Don’t they know that striking down Democrats makes them more powerful than you can possibly imagine? I mean, just look at all the rightwing sites complaining about dead Democrats voting.

  14. says

    This reminds me of the old Asterix Chez Les Corses BD. The Corsicans have elections by bringing their ballot-urns pre-stuffed with votes, and then having a knife-fight to decide the winner.

  15. d cwilson says

    In order to stay on the rolls, the 52-year-old nurse had to call and inform the registrar of her status among the living.

    Reminds me of that episode of M*A*S*H in which a clerical error had Hawkeye declared dead. In order to fix the problem, he was told he needed, among other things, affidavits from three officers who witnessed him “not die”.

  16. Randomfactor says

    Well, let’s be fair here. If there’s a chance you might vote for a Democrat, you’re dead to Rick Perry, so…

  17. says

    @ibbica #19 – Minor government functionary (and Republican apparatchik) submits a notice through normal channels with “death certificate pending.” Then it is “Oops, clerical error. Happens all the time. Sorry about that.”

    Or worse: even more deliberate fraud by “accidentally” changing names so that known or likely Republican voters who actually die are not forward to the fed.

    I’m not saying that it is happening, or even that it is likely; just that I wouldn’t be surprised. Remember, this is the same party that tried desperately in the last few elections to steal elections by using computerized “voting” machines that made it impossible to validate the vote (whatever happened to them, anyway?) and then gerrymandered state legislative districts to eliminate Democratic-leaning voting blocks.

  18. lofgren says

    gerrymandered state legislative districts to eliminate Democratic-leaning voting blocks.

    To be fair, that trick is as old as legislative districts themselves.

    I am glad that Ed Brayton is taking a stand for the suffrage of undead Americans.

  19. savagemutt says

    Is there cause for civil action by people being improperly disenfranchised by this? A class-action suit would come too late to do any good this election, but I wonder if it would make future officials more cautious.

  20. Ben P says

    So if he’s still on the voter rolls, he’s on them at his last address, which means the state authorities know which county government to call to see whether a person by that name at that address died. Seriously, how hard is this?

    You’re correct with one modification. Typically, death certificates, like birth certificates, are issued at a state wide level, not specific localities.

    The disconnect is that voting rolls are typically managed by local counties or cities.

    You described almost exactly how the typical practice works. When people die, the state gets death certificates. Every so often the state vital records agency will compile lists of the deceased from a particular county and send them to that county so that deceased people can be removed from the voting rolls. Even then mistakes aren’t necessarily uncommon where you have people of the same name.

    However, technology hasn’t taken over this area and state records agencies typically have a small-ish budget, so this process is slow. It’s not uncommon for such routine purges to be done yearly or even less often.

    What Texas was doing was attempting to short-cut this process and get a round of purges conducted before the election could occur. Their ostensible concern is voter fraud, the risk that people will attempt to vote in the name of a deceased person. However, obviously they might have some ulterior motives.

  21. says

    In 2000 in Florida, as I understand, it wasn’t just that Jeb and Katherine were purging convicted felons from the rolls; they would find out that, say, Tarique Leon Johnson was a felon, and, for good measure, they would remove him along with several other black men with the names Tarique or Leon or Terry or “some African-sounding name that starts with a ‘T’ and the last name Johnson,” even though the other black men WERE eligible to vote.

  22. says

    I just realized I’ve never heard of a 42 USC 1983 suit against officials for wrongly removing people from the voting rolls. But preventing somebody from voting is assuredly a violation of a civil right under the color of law. Maybe it’s about time that those disenfranchised start filing a bunch of such suits and inundating the elections officials. And I doubt they’d get even qualified immunity.

  23. cathyw says

    @Ing (#23): The worst case is that it lets someone else vote under the dead person’s name.

    I’d like to know, from some of the Voter Fraud Vigilantes: How many legitimate voters are you willing to turn away from the polls to prevent one fraudulent vote? What ratio is acceptable to you? Why is it higher than zero? That question never seems to get asked, much less answered.

  24. savagemutt says

    I’d like to know, from some of the Voter Fraud Vigilantes: How many legitimate voters are you willing to turn away from the polls to prevent one fraudulent vote? What ratio is acceptable to you? Why is it higher than zero? That question never seems to get asked, much less answered.

    A guy on Facebook told me that voting is “so important” that it was better to turn away valid voters than to risk even a single fraudulent vote.

    I didn’t even know how to reply to that kind of craziness.

  25. Homo Straminus says

    I’ll be interested to see what the voter turnout is this time around. According to one source (http://elections.gmu.edu/voter_turnout.htm), turnout has been steadily increasing since 1996, although it’s never gotten above 65%.

    So will the current horse-and-pony show keep those numbers up? Or are people (rightly) so disgusted with both candidates that they’ll sit this one out?

  26. says

    cathyw “I’d like to know, from some of the Voter Fraud Vigilante”
    Voter suppression is like the Death Penalty; even if it accidentally gets some innocent people, it sends the right message. To the innocent people.

    savagemutt “A guy on Facebook told me that voting is ‘so important’ that it was better to turn away valid voters than to risk even a single fraudulent vote. I didn’t even know how to reply to that kind of craziness.”
    “And what if it’s you?”

  27. savagemutt says

    @me -“A guy on Facebook told me that voting is ‘so important’ that it was better to turn away valid voters than to risk even a single fraudulent vote. I didn’t even know how to reply to that kind of craziness.”

    @Modusoperandi – “And what if it’s you?”

    Don’t be ridiculous. He’s white and Republican.

  28. yoav says

    Rachel Maddow just had a story on a tea party group mascarading as a non-profit, in NC, that submitted a list of 30,000 names they claimed are dead who turned out to be very much alive.

  29. savagemutt says

    savagemutt, white and Republican? Now I’ve seen everything!

    Prepare to have your mind blown even more. He also plays golf.

Leave a Reply