in Houston, Texas
Texas state officials criticized for faulty matches in purge of deceased voters
Friday, Nov 02, 2012, 03:43PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
vote sticker

Just four days before a presidential election likely to change everything in America unless it doesn’t, it is our professional responsibility to tear the shroud from a great voting conspiracy here in Texas.

In our effort not to unnecessarily frighten some of our readers, may we point out that this brazen attempt at subversion has been brought to the attention of the Attorney General and the Secretary of State who have, for the time being, put a stop to it.

We begin on June 17, 2011, when Gov. Rick Perry signed into law House Bill 174. Perry, a Republican, naturally had support for the new law from every Republican in the House and the Senate.

Oddly, the bill also had the blessing of every Democrat in both chambers.

HB 174 called for the Secretary of State’s office to add to its legally required methods of keeping voter rolls up to date a cross-check with a list of Social Security Administration cardholders who are dead.

The Secretary of State’s office developed a database checking the names of 13.5 million registered voters in Texas against a Social Security master list that numbers in the 80 millions.

The only information used in the check was a name, a date of birth and a Social Security number, Rich Parsons, director of communications for the Secretary of State told Texas Watchdog.

This produced a list of more than 8,200 names of Texas voters who were very likely no longer of this world and another 68,000 whose match discrepancies warranted further investigation, some of these because the names matched people living in other states.

For at least 40 years, the Secretary of State’s office has, as it is required to by law, passed this investigative responsibility onto voter registrars in the state’s 254 counties.

This cleaning of the voter rolls at the county level was to begin in late August, the state having pushed back its primary from April 3 to May 29 and runoff to July 31 because of  a Supreme Court challenge to the district maps passed by the Legislature, Parson says.

Let’s say for evenhandedness, the methods of investigation locally varied just a bit. Some county voting chiefs used additional records to confirm that voters were alive or dead. Others sent brusque letters suggesting to voters that unless they reported in alive and well they would be dropped from the voter rolls.

Four of the living sued. There have so far been no lawsuits filed by the dead. Counties continued on expunging the names of voters whose deaths could be proven, Parsons says.

Prominent Democrats began questioning the timing of the voter roll scrub-down so close to the election.

Partisan resistance by the county voting administrators very nearly broke out when John Ames, the Democratic tax collector/assessor for Dallas County, objected, until Harris County Republican tax collector/assessor Don Sumners protested, too.

Bexar County tax collector/assessor Sylvia Romo, a Democrat, complied and, according to Parsons, did a smashing job carrying out her legal responsibilities.

The plot, however, took another gnarled turn with an analysis by the Houston Chronicle of the names of the 68,000 so-called weak matches. (You can read the story here.)

Chronicle analysts found that voters in heavily minority districts in Houston, Dallas, El Paso and Brownsville matched up with the names of the dead twice as often as other voters.  There was also a greater match in minority heavy districts in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio, than those in surrounding counties.

Racial, ethnic and geographical information played no part in the cross-check, Parsons says. Voting officials do not ask for or keep voting information based on race or ethnicity.

“That means it is impossible to generate a match based on one’s race, ethnicity or geographic location,” Parsons says. “Any suggestion otherwise is patently false.”

The Chronicle analysts aren’t sure why they got the results they did, except to say that it had to do with a concentration of particular surnames in those minority districts.

All of which might tend to point to statistical chance. But then that might rule out collusion by the Legislature and abetting by the governor and the secretary of state, finally being undone by rogue county voting registrars refusing to follow the script.

And who would want to do that right before an election?

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of sticker by flickr user yksin, used via a Creative Commons license.

Thursday, 11/08/2012 - 11:13PM

Still trying to figure out why y'all used a graphic of an "I voted" sticker from Alaska.

Lee Ann O'Neal
Friday, 11/09/2012 - 02:49PM

Hi, Derek. Since we do not have a paid staff photographer, we use photos from Flickr via Creative Commons licensing. These tend to be generic images that relate to the story, something that we hope is clear to readers of the site. Many times, the sharpest image that will crop to our site requirements happens to be from someplace outside Texas but in our opinion is related enough to work.

Hope that addresses your question,

Lee Ann, Texas Watchdog

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