April 08, 2009
Not dead yet

Just a little reminder that sometimes voters are removed from the rolls erroneously.

Alegria Arce Hibbetts of Austin got a letter in late March saying that she might be dead. Or more specifically, the Texas secretary of state's Texas Election Administration Management system indicated that she was a "possible deceased voter." She had 30 days to prove otherwise, and she wasn't sure how to do that.

There was nowhere to check "I'm alive," said Hibbetts, 74, who lives just north of the University of Texas. "I don't know where they got that information."

The letter was one of thousands sent to voters across Texas as part of a new effort by the secretary of state's office to remove dead people from the voter rolls. Two weeks ago, the state sent a list of possible dead voters to each county, leaving local officials to find out who was still living. Though some county officials did further research, Travis County simply mailed out letters to all 140 people on the state's list.


"There's always that balance with someone's right to vote," said Randall Dillard, director of communications for the secretary of state's office. "But our responsibility is to keep the rolls as clean as possible."

The latest problem began when the secretary of state, at the state auditor's urging, cross-checked its database of 12.8 million registered voters against a list of all Texans who have died since 1964, the farthest back that complete records go, Dillard said.

State and county offices update voter rolls daily, adding registrations and removing the ineligible, but this was the first time the state did a complete sweep for the deceased.

If a computer matched a full name, last four digits of a Social Security number and date of birth with those of someone who died, the system automatically purged that voter from the rolls, Dillard said. But if the computer could match only the last four digits of the Social Security number and date of birth, that voter was flagged as a "weak match," and the name was forwarded to the county.

The secretary of state's office sent 9,932 "weak matches" to county voter registrars. There were 140 in Travis County, including some duplicates, but only 47 of those people were actually dead, said Dolores Lopez, director of elections for Travis County.

Although the county checked the information given by the state, it verified only the criteria that created the match in the first place. Officials did not go name by name down the list because they didn't realize the electronic spreadsheet contained names for comparison, Lopez said.

Oops. Well, at least this person got her error fixed in a timely fashion. One hopes that others in her position will be as fortunate. I suppose the only thing one can add to that is this:

You're not fooling anyone, you know.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 08, 2009 to Show Business for Ugly People
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