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County Attorney declares registration challenges invalid

That’s one word for it.

The Harris County Attorney’s office said Tuesday that the 4,000 voter registrations challenged by a county Republican Party official were invalid, and the voter registrar should not have sent suspension notices to more than 1,700 county voters.

“The voter challenge they received was not in compliance with the law,” Assistant County Attorney Douglas Ray said. “If somebody doesn’t respond to that notice, we advise (the registrar) not to place voters on the suspension list.”

[…]

Ray explained to Commissioners Court at its Tuesday meeting that to challenge a voter’s registration under state law, the challenger must have personal knowledge that the registration is inaccurate. Ray concluded that Alan Vera, the chairman of the Harris County Republican Party’s Ballot Security Committee who brought the challenges in July, could not possibly know each of the 4,037 voters on his list. Therefore, the challenges cannot be considered, he said.

Vera said Tuesday afternoon he disagrees with that interpretation and will “take follow-up actions.”

He previously said he and volunteers had combed through the rolls looking for voters who had listed the locations of post offices, parcel stories or places of business as their address.

State law requires voters to register at the address where they live.

See here and here for the background. The actual standard for voter registration is not where you actually live but where you intend to live, as Karl Rove and a long list of elected officials going back to the first days of the Republic could tell you. If we really want to enforce this standard, there’s going to be an awful lot of politicians hiring moving vans.

There’s another class of voter that this invalid challenge went after as well.

A detailed look at the list of challenges to the voter registration rolls filed by Harris County Republican Party Ballot Security Committee Chairman Alan Vera reveals that individuals using facilities dedicated to the homeless as residency addresses were among the 4,000 people targeted.

[…]

In addition, the challenge list had a startling number of facilities used by homeless people in the Houston area. The Beacon at 1212 Prairie had 15 such challenges. When contacted, The Beacon said that they partner with COMPASS, a group dedicated to helping the disadvantaged through employment and other means, to allow people staying at the shelter to receive their mail, including government documents such as voter registration paperwork. The Beacon is also where many of the people temporarily staying with the Salvation Army on North Main Street are referred to. The Salvation Army was listed in 23 challenges, despite the fact that the organization does not allow people to use it as a mail service.

Star of Hope Mission, Healthcare for the Homeless and The Hope Center were also among the challenged addresses. Aable Bail Bonds had 18 challenges, likely because they formerly ran a bunkhouse for homeless clients on the second floor.

Patients listing substance abuse and mental health care center addresses were included as well. The Houston Recovery Center, which attempts to divert individuals caught intoxicated in public away from incarceration, had 12 challenges on Vera’s list. Patients may reside at the facility for 18 months according to their media relations department.

As the story notes, just last year VoteTexas.gov was assuring people who had been displaced by Harvey that they could register to vote at a shelter if that’s where they were staying. How things change in a year, eh? It’s unfortunate that the Tax Assessor’s office took action on these registrations, even if was the result of a software glitch, before consulting with the County Attorney. But at least it has all come to light. If we use this as a catalyst to improve our voter registration process, so much the better.

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5 Comments

  1. Kenneth Fair says:

    It’s not just a question of making sure the system is working. HCDP and some of the challenged voters need to sue Vera and establish under oath that he could not possibly have personal knowledge of 4,000 voters. And then submit a criminal complaint against him for his perjury.

    These un-American attempts at voter suppression won’t be curbed until there’s a real cost to tin-pot fascists like Vera.

    I’m sorry, but I have less than zero tolerance for these shenanigans. Too many people fought and bled and died for the right to vote. It’s the most sacred right we have as Americans.

  2. voter_worker says:

    An attorney (I am not one) could make the argument that there can be no “intent to reside” at a location where that isn’t physically possible, such as the private mail boxes. This entire issue could be resolved in one fell swoop by the Legislature amending the address field on the voter registration application, and any other reference in the Election Code to “residence address”. The stipulation in parenthesis about not providing a PO box or residence address should also be removed. If the application simply requested “address” instead of “residence address” this would all be moot.

    https://www.eosc.edu/sites/www/Uploads/files/Campus%20Life/PTK/Texas_voter.pdf

  3. matx says:

    Can registrar ask for mailing address and residential address? when a guy backed into my car in a grocery store parking lot (during a busy Sunday afternoon), he got out to yell at *me* and I got a good description of him and the full license plate number, went to the police storefront and made a report. I found out they couldn’t do anything because the registration information for the license plate was a P.O. Box, so there was no physical address whatsoever associated with the plate number. Voting is not the same as car registration, but for all the hassle sometimes (like the fact that when I moved and changed my address via web, but could not change my voter registration at the same time unlike in person at the DMV, and cost in the case of auto registration) it can be to be registered can’t the public expect more accuracy and accountability from officials?

  4. Mainstream says:

    I believe the law requires you to register to vote where you are domiciled. Domicile and residence are not perfectly overlapping. As I have mentioned elsewhere, a voter who physically leaves the county to serve in public office, attend university, serve as a missionary or soldier abroad, or work on temporary assignment for an oil company can be domiciled still in this county, but resident elsewhere.

    Having said that, we have lots of voters who for reasons of convenience or strategy vote from an office address or an address of another family member, which should not be allowed.

  5. voter_worker says:

    @Mainstream The distinctions between residence and domicile are not operative on the voter application itself, which uses the term “residence”. In the 2000s, the Harris County VR was making determinations as to whether addresses submitted by registration applicants were residential or commercial, and rejecting those application using commercial addresses. When this was contested in a civil lawsuit, the VR’s position was not upheld and they were ordered to process all addresses as if they were residential. That’s the reason why Harris County now has many voters registered at private mailbox and other commercial addresses. The law requiring a residence address is not being enforced because there is no politically acceptable method of enforcing it.