Central Texas elections officials are warning against a rash of emails spreading false information about voter registration — an already confusing issue for many because of an ongoing battle over redistricting that has delayed every step in the election process.
The emails claim that voter registration certificates expired at the end of last year and that residents hoping to have a say in the election need to get registered quickly.
“Probably just incompetence, to allow this change without public notification,” one email says. “Until this year voter registration cards were automatically mailed to arrive before expiration, but that did NOT happen this year. That means you will have to go in and apply for a new one.”
Whoever wrote the emails is clearly misinformed, said Williamson County Voter Registration Supervisor Julie Seippel. New voter registration certificates have not been printed yet, because a date for the primary election has not been set. An ongoing court fight over redistricting affects voting precincts and where registered voters may cast ballots, hence the delayed primaries and the lack of new registration cards.
Counties, including Williamson, Travis, Hays and Burnet, have tried to get the word out about the confusion, sending out press releases and talking to the Statesman about the issue.
The Secretary of State’s office sent out a press release trying to clear up the confusion yesterday. Rich Parsons, a spokesman for the office, said they have received several calls and emails from confused Texans.
“All previously-issued voter registration certificates expired on December 31, 2011, but only the cards expired, voter registrations remain valid,” the release said.
Here’s a press release from the Harris County Tax Assessor’s office:
Revised Feb. 22, 2012 — Normally, in mid January of every even-numbered year, persons registered to vote in Harris County get their new voter certificate in the mail.
Not this year. The 2012 redistricting maps drawn by the Texas Legislature are in dispute and the matter is in the hands of the federal courts.
“My office cannot prepare and mail the new certificates until the court has approved the redistricting maps. Only after that can voters be assigned to the correct voting precinct,” said Don Sumners,
the Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar. “Once the court has approved the redistricting maps, we will mail new voter registration certificates at the earliest possible date.”
The Democratic and Republican party primaries have been delayed by the same dispute. Now it appears the primaries will be held no earlier than May 29.
“The delay in mailing the registration certificates will not interfere with anyone’s right to vote. I and my Voter Registration Department will support and protect the rights of every qualified voter. We will prepare and mail every certificate as soon as we can after the federal courts decide this case,” Sumners said.
“Look for a new certificate — yellow and white this year – soon after the decision is final,” Sumners said.
You know how I feel about Sumners, but he’s right. They can’t mail the cards until they know what the precinct boundaries are and what the maps look like. After we get maps, if you don’t get your card, feel free to call and raise hell. Until then, please be patient.