As you know, last week there was a settlement reached in the lawsuit against the Harris County Tax Assessor’s office over allegations that they improperly rejected thousands of voter registration applications last year. Shortly after that agreement was signed, the Lone Star Project touted it as a major victory for the plaintiffs, who got vindication on many of their claims and agreement from the Tax Assessor’s office to do things differently in several key areas. Earlier this week, the Tax Assessor’s office sent out a press release saying that it was they who had been proven right. Some lawsuits allow for win-win resolutions, but this one struck me as more of a zero-sum endeavor. So who really did win? According to this Chron editorial that praised the settlement, it wasn’t Leo Vasquez.
Vasquez issued a statement calling the settlement a vindication from baseless allegations. But the specified changes in the tax-office procedures for handling registration applications make it clear that the original complaints were anything but frivolous.
The settlement requires that the office’s voter registrar must either process a registration application or notify the applicant why the paperwork is being rejected within the state-mandated seven days.
The registrar must also provide within three business days, upon request by chairs of political parties, reports of all voters registered, applications received, the number rejected, and the names and addresses of those affected.
The settlement also prohibits employees and contractors working for the tax office’s voter section from “having other employment or financial interests in any outside company providing voter information to any candidate, political party, or other person or entity.”
Well, the settlement does include no admission of wrongdoing, as is often the case in situations like this. If Vasquez wants to hang his hat on that, it’s fine by me. I’ll take the substantive changes that were made, and will look forward to ensuring that what happened in 2008 never happens again. You can read the agreement here and judge for yourself.