Suspended Voters Can Still Cast Ballot

Many view voter registration systems in the country as an area that needs to be improved. Federal law requires states keep up-to-date voter records.

The Texas Election Administration Management, or TEAM system, is the result of the Help America Vote Act signed by President Bush in 2002. It includes the maintenance of voter registration records.

Under this aggressive policy to keep files current, it’s estimated that 1.5 million of the state’s more than 13 million registered voters could be removed from the rolls if they fail to vote, or update their records in consecutive federal elections. 

Rich Parsons with the Texas Secretary of State’s office, says steps are taken to ensure the identification of each voter is protected.

“Some identifying factor may closely match another registered voter. And to ensure that those voters who may have a close match are not removed inadvertently or accidentally from the voter rolls, they might receive a letter asking them to verify their voting status.”

More than a 100,000 registered voters in Harris County got a suspension notice, because of possible address change.

Hispanics have a problem with having a common name, as former County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia found out. Her name is the same as 35 other voters.

“You’re on the voter rolls, you just may not have the issued ID card, which is what you get in the mail. And for me, it was a question of where I was registered and why I was using a P.O. Box. And for me, it resulted in a suspension back in 2003.”

Garcia says it came as a shock when she received the suspension notice, because she never forgets to vote. She resolved the problem, but it made her think about other suspended voters who might not be as conscientious.

“I think more emphasis should be placed on registering the voter, engaging the voter and protecting that right. I mean, they reject too many applications. They put too many people on suspension, and I think there should be greater effort placed on making sure that people know where to vote and when to vote.”

Fred King is with the Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar’s office. He says you can still vote even if you receive a suspension notice.

“When you go to vote, they’re gonna tell you, ‘It says suspended here. Would you please fill out one of these statement of residence forms?’ It’s a little too complicated for some people perhaps, but it’s the process that’s been approved by the Justice Department, the state legislature and the Secretary of State’s office.”

More information on correcting any conflict with voter registration can be found at www.hctax.net, and go to voter registration at the top center of the page.