UPDATED:Senator Rodney Ellis Joins Chorus Questioning the Statewide Voter Purge

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Rodney Ellis wonders if it's all about the timing.
Update:Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan issued a legal memorandum today saying the state's "purge of allegedly dead voters" was not legal. "The notice from the Secretary of State did not make the required determination that the voters on the list were deceased," Ryan said. "Many people have come forward astounded that the government had notified their families that they were dead. Two Assistant County Attorneys in my office received this notice. This action by the Texas Secretary of State is outrageous, wrong, and unlawful."


Amid the increasing uproar over the state of Texas purging its voter rolls and notifying people that their names will be expunged from the rolls because they are dead -- who aren't -- State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) asks a good question.

Why now? Why is House Bill 174, calling for a check of the voter rolls throughout the state, only being put into effect now, when it became law more than a year ago?

As he wrote in a letter to Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade:


H.B. 174 went into effect on September 1, 2011. Is this the first set of letters sent out to supposedly deceased voters under the requirements of the bill? If so, why did it take a full year to implement H.B. 174? I find it quite alarming that the first effort to purge voters comes a mere two months before the general election.

Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar Don Sumners has said he won't purge his county's rolls until after the election, which has brought him under fire for not following the law.

People who receive one of the letters have 30 days to notify the county voter registration office that a mistake has been made.

Ellis's letter follows:

Dear Secretary Andrade:

I have grave concerns that very much alive and registered voters -- not only in my senatorial district, but across all of Texas -- will be disenfranchised as a result of this clearly flawed voter purge. I therefore have the following questions:

H.B. 174 went into effect on September 1, 2011. Is this the first set of letters sent out to supposedly deceased voters under the requirements of the bill? If so, why did it take a full year to implement H.B. 174? I find it quite alarming that the first effort to purge voters comes a mere two months before the general election.

Clearly there are a number of errors in the database upon which your office is relying to comply with H.B. 174. Please provide information about the database. Do you have faith in the reliability of the database, and would you recommend any statutory changes to reduce the error rate?

Given the number of responses Sumners' office has received from people stating that they are alive and thus received the letter in error, Sumners has indicated to the media that he does not plan on processing any of cancellations until after the election. What efforts can you undertake to urge other voter registrars across the state to also postpone any registration cancellations until after election day?

Media reports show that your spokesman stated that even if voters are wrongly deleted from the roll as a result of this purge they still would be able to cast ballots on election day. Please explain how this will work. Will voters who are wrongly purged be forced to cast a provisional ballot? What documentation would a voter need to show that they were wrongly purged?

Given the fact that we are less than two months away from election day and less than a month away from the registration deadline, I ask that you respond in writing as soon as possible. If a process upon which you are relying to purge voters this close to the election is shown to be flawed, I urge you to do whatever possible to protect Texas voters' franchise. Our state and our voters deserve no less.

Sincerely,

Rodney Ellis


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