Deal reached in fight over dead Harris County voters


A list of 1,000 probably dead voters are now getting new letters. But just weeks from Election Day, the compromise means any automatic purging will have to wait until after the election.

By now you've seen the faces of the certainly alive Harris County voters the state of Texas thought were dead. At least a quarter of the 9,000 allegedly dead Harris County voters are alive and eligible to vote.

The confusion prompted the Harris County voter registrar to stop purging the voter roll in possible violation of a new Texas law.

"I was not going to remove these people from the voter rolls before the election," said Don Sumners, Harris Co. Voter Registrar.

When Sumners stopped the state-ordered purge, the state froze his funding and until late Wednesday afternoon there was the very real possibility that there wouldn't be enough cash in his budget to run the November election. But now a compromise.

"It's going to work out well. I don't think we're going to have dead people voting," said Sumners.

He says the 9,000 letters should never have sent because there wasn't strong evidence those people were really dead. He says a more accurate and far smaller list should've been sent instead. He blames that mistake on an unnamed staffer.

"I was not aware that there was two lists," Sumners said.

The thousands of names came from the federal Social Security Administration which maintains a list of allegedly dead Americans. The Texas secretary of state divides that list into voters who have "strong matches" and "weak matches" with voting rolls.

A "strong match" occurs when the same last name, same date of birth and all nine digits of a voter's Social Security number appear on both lists. Those are the voter registrations automatically canceled according to state law.

A so-called weak match can be as little as a the same birthday and the last four digits of a Social Security number appearing on both lists; the name doesn't even have to be the same.

"It's not a perfect system obviously," said Sumners.

Even though no one will be automatically purged before the election, the best advice is to send a letter back if you got one.

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