This whole protracted standoff between Harris County Tax Assessor Don Sumners and the Secretary of State over the “dead voter” purge has apparently been the result of a misunderstanding.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett has brokered a deal with the Texas secretary of state to restore about $700,000 in funding the state had cut off after the county tax assessor said he would not purge presumed-dead voters from the rolls before the Nov. 6 election.
Emmett blamed Sumners for the mix-up, revealing the tax office had been sent two lists by the secretary of state, but only acted on one. One list included 9,000 names the state considered “weak” matches to death records. The second list was composed of about 1,000 names considered “strong” matches to death records.
Sumners’ office only sent letters to voters on the “weak” list. Sumners, who serves as the county’s chief voter registrar, acknowledged his office erred, believing until late last week that the 1,000 names on the “strong” list were among the 9,000 on the other list.
Emmett’s deal is based on the “strong” list. The secretary of state has agreed to restore Sumners’ funding if the taxman sends letters to the names on the strong list, canceling those whose relatives confirm they are dead and removing from the voter rolls those for whom there is no response after 30 days, Parsons said.
On the weak matches, Parsons said, Sumners simply needs to cancel registrations of voters who are confirmed dead, as Sumners said he already has been doing. Sumners then could handle those who do not respond from the weak list “as he determines necessary for the county,” Parsons said.
“We’re trying to make this work so that the secretary of state sends us the money, everybody who has the right to vote gets to vote, and people who are deceased get removed from the rolls,” Emmett said. “This is just a mess.”
See here, here, and here for the history. After all this, to find out that the root cause was another screwup by Sumners…I’m just shaking my head. That “weak match” list, by the way, was pretty darned weak: According to the story, as of Friday over 10% of the recipients of that “please prove to us you’re not dead” letter had responded to affirm their not-deadness, including State Rep. Wayne Smith, while less than one percent had been confirmed to actually be dead. I will just say again, this is why these things need to be done very carefully. Kudos to Judge Emmett for getting to the bottom of this.