Deal reached to restore SOS funding for Tax Assessor

This whole protracted standoff between Harris County Tax Assessor Don Sumners and the Secretary of State over the “dead voter” purge has apparently been the result of a misunderstanding.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett has brokered a deal with the Texas secretary of state to restore about $700,000 in funding the state had cut off after the county tax assessor said he would not purge presumed-dead voters from the rolls before the Nov. 6 election.


Emmett blamed Sumners for the mix-up, revealing the tax office had been sent two lists by the secretary of state, but only acted on one. One list included 9,000 names the state considered “weak” matches to death records. The second list was composed of about 1,000 names considered “strong” matches to death records.

Sumners’ office only sent letters to voters on the “weak” list. Sumners, who serves as the county’s chief voter registrar, acknowledged his office erred, believing until late last week that the 1,000 names on the “strong” list were among the 9,000 on the other list.

Emmett’s deal is based on the “strong” list. The secretary of state has agreed to restore Sumners’ funding if the taxman sends letters to the names on the strong list, canceling those whose relatives confirm they are dead and removing from the voter rolls those for whom there is no response after 30 days, Parsons said.

On the weak matches, Parsons said, Sumners simply needs to cancel registrations of voters who are confirmed dead, as Sumners said he already has been doing. Sumners then could handle those who do not respond from the weak list “as he determines necessary for the county,” Parsons said.

“We’re trying to make this work so that the secretary of state sends us the money, everybody who has the right to vote gets to vote, and people who are deceased get removed from the rolls,” Emmett said. “This is just a mess.”

See here, here, and here for the history. After all this, to find out that the root cause was another screwup by Sumners…I’m just shaking my head. That “weak match” list, by the way, was pretty darned weak: According to the story, as of Friday over 10% of the recipients of that “please prove to us you’re not dead” letter had responded to affirm their not-deadness, including State Rep. Wayne Smith, while less than one percent had been confirmed to actually be dead. I will just say again, this is why these things need to be done very carefully. Kudos to Judge Emmett for getting to the bottom of this.

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6 Responses to Deal reached to restore SOS funding for Tax Assessor

  1. landslide says:

    I wish to God that these Republicans would get over their irrational paranoia that a dead person might vote. This isn’t 1950s Chicago or 1930s South Texas, people. I remember how much Paul Bettancourt complained that there were thousands of dead voters still on the rolls when he took over after 51 years under Carl Smith. And Mr. Smith said he figured it made no sense to purge voter rolls, even if they thought someone might be dead, or hadn’t voted in years. It didn’t matter to him, because maybe that person was alive and decided one day, after years and years of apathy, to get out and vote. And he wasn’t going to stand in their way because there was no harm to leaving their names on the voter rolls.

  2. Ross says:

    I’m not worried about a dead person voting. I am worried about a live person using a dead person’s registration to get a mail in ballot. Or two. Or three, etc.

  3. Mainstream says:

    Accurate voting rolls matter to campaigns, too. I hate to think how much postage is spent and how many trees are cut down to mail letters and campaign brochures to persons who long ago died or moved out of a neighborhood. On my one block in the Heights I have two dead voters still on the list, and 9 who no longer live in the neighborhood. Two of those moved away in the late 1990s. This is out of 32 total registrations.

  4. landslide says:

    Well-managed campaigns buy voter lists from services that enhance the data with all manner of important information, from a person’s voting history to his or her ethnicity and phone number. That information is not included in voting lists purchased from the county, so most campaigns do not use them. County voter lists having or not having dead people on them have little effect on whether direct mail pieces are wasted.

    And in my experience, the cases of mail ballot fraud involve stealing ballots from qualified voters (read not dead) and casting votes as the thief saw fit, or a third party harvesting ballots (before subsequent law made that more difficult) and selling the vote to the highest bidder.

    I know this may be hard for a lot of Republicans to believe, but just isn’t the kind of widespread voter fraud that you’re so afraid of just doesn’t exist in modern America. The more likely explanation for a Republican candidate to ever lose a race for public office is that more actual voters preferred and voted for the Democrat rather than unqualified people illegally casting fraudulent ballots on their behalf.

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