Harris County cut off from state funds after refusal to purge voters suspected to be dead

September 14, 2012 8:19:09 PM PDT
Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade is withholding more than $700,000 from Harris County; it's money that was supposed to be used for voter registration efforts. That comes after a dispute over the effort to purge so-called dead voters.

A spokesperson for Texas secretary of state said that Harris County had been warned it would be out of compliance with the state's new voter registration law. On Friday, the state lowered a very expensive hammer.

At the Harris Co. tax assessor's office Friday, people were filling out voter registration forms.

"It's one of my treasures. It's a right that we have to vote and we need to exercise. I think it's important," said Merle Ozenne.

Tommy Thomas was here to check that his family members are on the list.

"I think a lot of them just want to make sure they got the opportunity to vote," he said.

All this in the midst of a showdown between the county and the state over the purging of dead voters' names from the registration rolls. It's part of a new state law to cut down on voter fraud, which the county attorney says is not a problem.

"And it just doesn't happen very much. All this effort supposedly is intended to clean up the roles of dead people who can't vote anyway," said Harris Co. Attorney Vince Ryan.

By order of the state, a letter was sent out to voters asking them or their families if they were dead and to inform the county of their status. But the Harris County tax assessor said the roles would not be changed for the upcoming election because of a matter of time.

On Friday, the secretary of state's office responded by locking the county out of the state's website and freezing $702,000 intended for county voter registration efforts. And that's a problem.

"It would slow dramatically the processing of voter apps at this point in time which of course have to get done by October 7 in order for those people to be on the official voter roll," said Don Sumners, Harris Co. Tax Assessor.

The funding affects only voter registration, not the election itself.


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