Harris County Reaches Agreement With State Over Purging Suspected Deceased Voters

A new state law requires counties to conduct a special purge of dead voters from the rolls.

State officials had said Harris County wasn’t fulfilling its end of the bargain, and had threatened to cut off hundreds of thousands of dollars in money needed to run the election.

Harris County voter registrar Don Sumners says he did make a clerical mistake by not using the entire list of suspect voters sent to him by the state.

But he also riled up state officials because he decided not to purge the rolls after getting concerned calls from people who said they had been alerted, but were actually alive. 

“So of all of the responses, 66 percent of the responses have been that the people are still alive. So that confirms what I thought about that list, that it was really not reliable.”

Nevertheless, the county has an agreement with the Secretary of State.

Harris County will get to keep its state funds, and Sumners will send out inquiries to an additional group of voters who might be deceased.

Still, Sumners says he erred on the side of caution.

“I took a stance because I thought it was the right thing to do. I didn’t want to create havoc at the polls when all these people that had been taken off because they looked like they were supposed to be dead show up to vote, and they have to use a special process to vote, and it slows the voting down. Plus, the fact that you don’t want to disenfranchise people unnecessarily.”

Sumners has also agreed to purge the rolls if he gets active confirmation that the suspect voter is indeed deceased.

But he says Election Day is now so close that a complete purge won’t be finished until afterwards, so it probably won’t affect the 2012 election cycle. 

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