Re-Committing To Voter Registration

There’s no doubt that 2012 is weighing heavily on our minds. With Republican-led voter suppression efforts becoming law around the country, the intent of these efforts is obvious. It’s what we don’t see that we should be worried about, according to my good friend Stan Merriman, who had this op-ed in the Chron.

The Harris County tax assessor-collector has re-created the equivalent of a regressive poll tax by maximizing the time and travel costs of voting. He forces most voters in Harris County to reapply over and over. He then decides whether to allow a citizen to remain on the registration rolls by a secretive purging operation that, even after the lawsuits by the Democratic Party mentioned in the Jan. 30 article, remains largely obscured from public scrutiny. No increase in the voter rolls for this dynamic and growing community is the result.

The Tax Office suspends or cancels voter registrations based on something like a credit check. The office calls it a live check; it sends personal identification information into a so-called “fusion center” and, from there, to where nobody will say. In any case, the unreliable information returned from various sources is used to disqualify or misdirect voters. This is not subject to audit and barely subject to appeal. You the voter just show up at the polls to discover when it is too late to do anything about it that you are not qualified to vote. Just making a simple change of address is difficult and risks cancellation. Voter registration in Harris County is really a lifetime reregistration process costing millions their right to vote and the county millions of dollars.

Many believe new voter identification rules will suppress turnout, but whatever effect they may have is dwarfed by the huge voter suppression caused by our registration process.

There are solutions.

He goes on to give some simple, common sense solutions, so read the rest of the article.

Meanwhile, a voter group has filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas for some of these practices.

The latest lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Texas courts names Texas Secretary of StateHope Andrade and takes aim at the state’s new mandatory training for all volunteer registrars – in which almost anyone who handles a voter’s application as part of a registration drive has to complete training before he or she can be “deputized” to operate in any Texas county. A spokesman for Andrade refused comment.

Population growth in Texas exceeds most other states, while many voter registration rolls throughout the state remain stagnant. As of January, 12.9 million Texans had registered to vote -up just 2 percent from January 2008.

There’s no doubt that this is all part of a pattern to suppress voting opportunities for Texans across the political spectrum. Through some spies, I’m hearing of other things that may be launched soon to cut folks off the rolls. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this in the near to not-so-distant future.

More than ever, voter registration will play a major role in the 2012 elections. It’s time to recommit to ensuring Texans remain on the rolls.

It’s time to “true the democracy,” don’t you think?

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