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Extend the voter registration deadline

I think one of the least things we can do for folks who were displaced by Hurricane Ike is ensure that they are able to vote in this election if they are eligible to to do so. That should include extending the deadline to register to vote.

Fred Lewis of Houston Votes, which has been registering people in Harris County, said hurricane victims dealing with the loss of their homes, lack of power and other problems are not thinking about registering to vote.

“It would be a horrible thing if people ended up not being able to vote for president, for senator, for their county officials because of the hurricane,” he said.

Lewis said he believes Perry has the authority to extend the deadline although he could not find any language in Texas laws or Constitution addressing the issue.

“I think the governor has inherent constitutional authority to protect the franchise, and I also think he has statutory authority under the emergency powers to suspend laws if necessary to protect the public,” Lewis said.

Houston Votes and several other groups, including the League of Women Voters of Texas and Common Cause, are joining in the effort to extend the deadline. They also want the governor to appropriate emergency funds to assist county registrars in processing applications.

Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for Perry, said the governor would not consider a request to extend the deadline unless it came from a county official or the secretary of state.

“We’ve not been asked by any county officials to extend the deadline,” she said. “We’re working with the secretary of state, and they’ve not given any indication there’s a problem.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Secretary of State is appointed by the Governor, so if the Governor doesn’t think there’s a problem, why should the SOS? Consider that a reason for wanting to make the SOS an elected office instead.

Be that as it may, there’s nothing sacred about the existing voter registration deadline. We picked a date, we can pick another one if we want. Whether the Governor has the power to do it unilaterally in the event of an “emergency” is a different question, one that I’m sure would lead to litigation if it were to happen. My guess is that whoever filed a suit to stop it would succeed in getting a temporary restraining order forbidding the change until the suit could be adjudicated, so in that sense it’s all a moot point anyway. But it might be nice to get the matter settled, in case the question arises again some day. Given the record-setting pace of voter registrations this year, it would have been nice to already have this answer. That’s the way it goes.

And for those in the comments to the Chron story who grump that people should have already registered by now, I’ll just note that for some people, that wasn’t an option. And wherever you are, if you haven’t registered to vote yet, or aren’t sure if you’re registered, or just need more information, go to Vote for Change this week and get it done. Don’t be left out of this election.

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One Comment

  1. Jeb says:

    Perry’s been very aggressive about waiving other rules and requirements. So, why not this?