If you can’t win, cheat

This is some bullshit.

Harris County residents keen to vote in the upcoming midterm elections should be very careful about checking their mail. Recently, some residents of Third Ward received letters informing them of an address change they had not actually filed and which, if not answered, would put their franchise into suspension. It looks to be the result of a Republican-led challenge to thousands of Houston voters.

Lynn Lane, the well-respected Houston photographer who does a lot of theater and dance photography, almost threw the envelope away, thinking it was junk mail. Instead, it was from Ann Harris-Bennett, Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector & Voter Registrar. Though Lane has lived at his address for the past five years, his letter said otherwise. Furthermore, lack of response would cost him the right to vote.

It reads:

“If you do not respond at all to this notice, your registration will be canceled if you have not confirmed your address either by completing the response form or confirming your address when voting before November 30 following the second general election for state and county officers that occurs after the date the confirmation notice is mailed.”

Lane subsequently checked his voter registration and found that his voting rights were indeed listed as suspended. He says that a neighbor and others he had spoken to – who declined to be named in this story – had received similar letters.

“Something is definitely fishy with them trying to cancel voters registration stating our addresses have changed and if we don’t return these forms completed they will remove us from the registration it we will not be able to vote in November,” says Lane.

Archie Rose in Harris-Bennett’s office said that he suspected voter registration challenges were to blame when contacted for comment. According to Section 16 of the Texas Election Code, “a registered voter may challenge the registration of another voter.” Alan Vera, Chairman of the Harris County Republican Party’s Ballot Security Committee, has delivered 4,000 such challenges to Harris-Bennett’s office.


Lane’s letter is indicative that Vera and the Harris County Republican Party’s Ballot Security Committee’s movement has resulted in some lawfully registered voters in minority neighborhoods seeing their right to vote jeopardized. As the current system allows any registered voter to initiate such challenges against anyone they suspect or wish to accuse of improper registration, it is open to coordinated mob misuse.

“This is voter suppression at its finest,” says Lane. “And it’s also a waste of taxpayer dollars to send out all of these forms and then have us send them back to make sure we’re okay when we were okay before.”

Voters are encouraged to check their mail carefully in case they have also been challenged, and to make regular checks of the Secretary of State website to confirm their voter registration status. Anyone who receives a letter like Lane’s should respond promptly as instructed.

So, three things here. One, check yourself (choose “VUID and date of birth” for the Selection Criteria; your VUID is right there on your voter registration card) and tell everyone you know to check themselves. Two, the law in question being used to challenge these voters’ registrations needs to be tightened up. The person making the challenge must “state a specific qualification for registration that the challenged voter has not met based on the personal knowledge of the voter desiring to challenge the registration”, which seems awfully broad. Let’s define a standard of evidence here, and let’s include a penalty for making false claims. And three, while there may not be a prescribed remedy for someone who has been fraudulently challenged, I’m thinking a lawsuit against the perpetrators is in order anyway. Maybe file four thousand of them in JP court, for a bit of cosmic balance.

Be that as it may, this story deserves to be more thoroughly reported and widely known. It’s been all over Facebook among local Democrats, and the HCDP took notice as well. From an email sent out by HCDP Chair Lillie Schechter:

We were alerted yesterday that the voter registrations of nearly 4,000 democratic voters had been challenged by Republicans. Taking advantage of a loophole that allows challenged voter registrations to be placed on a suspense list requiring them to either update their address information online or complete a Statement of Residence at their polling place.

Making it harder to vote is one of the oldest tactics in the playbook of Republicans who are right now shaking in their boots at the thought of the expanding electorate and the coming blue wave.

HCDP is working to identify every democratic voter affected and alert them to this change in their registration status. We plan to contact them by mail and phone to ensure they have all the information needed to exercise their right to vote in November and beyond.

Good, and exactly what they need to do. It sucks that they have to do this, but that’s the world we live in, where people who have lived at the same address for years can have their voter registrations challenged by random assholes. Know what’s going on, and don’t let anyone disenfranchise you or someone you know.

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14 Responses to If you can’t win, cheat

  1. Manny Barrera says:

    One can also go to the Harris County Tax Assessor office


    Type in your name, if it has been suspended a message will pop up

  2. Marc Meyer says:

    There is a simple solution to this problem. Vote. And vote the bastards who tolerate theses tactics out!

  3. voter_worker says:

    The article implies an immediate cancellation for failure to respond while the letter from VR Bennett states that cancellation would not occur until after two election cycles have passed if the Registrar had not heard from the voter within that time period. If the Rs were hoping to get 4000 voters cancelled before the upcoming election, they should have read the Texas Election Code’s applicable sections before initiating this stunt. As of this morning, the Voter Registrar’s website shows Mr. Lane’s status as still being “suspense”.

  4. Kenneth Fair says:

    Election Code Section 16.092 requires the person challenging another’s registration to “states a specific qualification for registration that the challenged voter has not met based on the personal knowledge of the voter desiring to challenge the registration.” How can Mr. Vera possibly have personal knowledge of the residences of 4,000 people? Seems to me like he committed perjury in submitting these challenges.

  5. Mainstream says:

    Instead of demonizing the citizens who volunteer and take the time to research the accuracy of the voter rolls, we ought to ask why Ann Harris Bennett is not doing her job to keep our voter rolls free from errors and false registrations. I once came across a dozen voters registered at a non-existent address in Timbergrove. It turns out the folks lived in Spring and did not know their own correct street address for their apartment complex. When I reported the death of one of my neighbors to the Registrar’s office, the person answering the phone asked why it mattered to remove the person from the list, unless someone had cast a vote using her name.

  6. voter_worker says:

    @Mainstream Suspense status registrations are not fake or inaccurate and do not warrant external actions such as this one. The reason for Mr. Lane’s suspense status could be determined by the VR if he’d contact them to get it sorted. As for the incorrect registrations in Timbergrove, you did the right thing to report them. No telling what was going on when you called in that death notice, but I’m relieved to know that voter registrations are not being cancelled on the basis of a phone call.

  7. voter_worker says:

    I should have waited to comment until after checking the embedded links. The one to Empower Texans was not working this morning and now it is, and it clearly explains the nature of the challenge, which the Houston Press article fails to do.

    “Thousands of questionable Harris County voter registration records are getting a much needed review, after local citizens took the initiative to identify voters who registered at addresses where they don’t reside. County election officials must now verify the voters’ residences and determine where, or if, they should be voting within the jurisdiction.
    Alan Vera, Chairman of the Harris County Republican Party’s Ballot Security Committee, challenged the registrations of nearly 4,000 voters in Harris County who are registered to vote at street addresses corresponding to post office box locations.
    Vera delivered the challenges to Harris County Voter Registrar Ann Harris Bennett on Monday, and since the challenges are based on voters’ residency, state law requires Bennett to take immediate action.”

    Ironically, Mr. Lane’s registration address is not a private post office box location; according to Google Maps it’s his business’s address. An actual private mail box location, 1302 Waugh Dr, does not seem to have been included in the challenge as a few voters I checked at that address are not in suspense status. As a result of a lawsuit and subsequent court order back in the Bettencourt days, the Harris County VR is obligated to register applicants at any address be it residential, commercial, or other as long as it is within the boundaries of Harris County.

    This may be “the law of unintended consequences” at work.

  8. Manny Barrera says:

    Mainstream maybe you gave a short answer when it should have a long answer.

    So I can call and tell them my neighbor has died and the name should be removed. Or maybe my neighbor has moved and his name should be removed. All this done over the phone based on the word of someone that may or not be telling the truth.

    I wonder if that list is public? The Houston Press claimed that minorities areas are being targeted, but they did not provide prove of that.

    If all they found were four thousand such registered voters, then they may have been picky.

    For instance the address of a UPS Store, 11152 WESTHEIMER RD

    It seems that only people with minority last names have had their names suspended.

    If they look at business addresses than there quite a few more, many are Republicans.

    Republicans can only win by cheating they are a corrupt party.

  9. Manny Barrera says:

    At the same address above there were five persons that voted in the Republican Primary.

    Two voted in the Democratic Primary.


    correction above “proof of that”

    By the way I think it was Mainstream called it a conspiracy when I stated that many Republicans were not voting from where they live but using P.O. Boxes and business addresses.

    But I may some time looking for Republicans that may be voting from P.O. Boxes and business address and sent those to the Tax Assessor.

  10. Mainstream says:

    Of course I don’t expect someone to be removed from voting rolls by a verbal report of the death of the voter. But I would hope the officials would at least investigate and make the correction, where appropriate.

    Our rules about where people may vote are unacceptably fuzzy. We have adults living in the suburbs voting from their grandmother’s house, and folks using business addresses because they don’t want to drive back to the neighborhood of their residence to vote on Election Day.

    Many of our elected officials do not really live in the districts they represent.

    Some folks using PO Boxes may not have other addresses available to them, if they are on overseas assignments for some company or the government, but others have no such excuse.

    One area I would hope we could get agreement on: when folks get called for jury duty because they are on the voting rolls, and tell the judge they cannot serve because they are not US citizens, I think the courts ought to be allowed to send those names to the Voter Registrar to purge from the voting rolls.

  11. Pingback: Vote suspension update – Off the Kuff

  12. Manny Barrera says:

    Mainstream, Harris County also used TDL and one does not have to be a citizen to have a drivers license. I know one permanent resident that has that happen. Foreign students also can get a TDL.

    Example, I suspect one of my neighbors has died, if he passed away in Harris County it would be easy to find, but if they had moved to stay with a relative because of age, not so easy.

    Besides it is a hassle to change TDL every time you move if you live in an apartment.

    Homeless people would not be allowed to vote or be extremely difficult for them to vote because the Republicans want to keep them from voting with their vote suppression laws. Many of those homeless are veterans.

    With early voting using a business address because they don’t want to vote where they live does not make sense.

    In my area they make us vote about 4 miles away, even though there are at least 3 other voting locations that are much closer. It is Democratic Precinct. Many are elderly and vote Democrat.
    In fact quite a few of those Republicans that do vote here also reside in Harris County, so there are other reasons I suspect. Although I knew one for example that lived in Ft. Bend but voted Republican in the 2nd Ward because most his contracts came from Harris County.

  13. Andrew Lynch says:

    Let’s talk about the real issue here.

    Using a business address because they don’t want to vote where they live does not make sense.

  14. Manny Barrera says:

    Andrew you need to understand politics. Example I want to vote for my brother who is running for city council, but I live outside the city limits. I use my business address that is in the city limits. One Republican I knew voted here because he lived in a bright red county so he used his brother’s address in Houston to vote as a Republican.

    Where you live and when you were born is all there in the voter data you submit, so some people don’t want people to know their home address.

    Former state Dem Rep, had about 20 people voting from his house, including most if not all his staff.

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