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Living Texans Purged from Voter Rolls for being “Potentially Deceased”

Like the poor fellow in the classic comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail, who complains he should not be tossed on a horse-drawn hearse because “I’m not dead,” thousands of living Texans have recently been told they are “potentially dead”—and need to prove they’re still alive to keep their voting rights. Four of them filed suit last week in state court, and Texas District Judge Tim Sulak issued a temporary order barring Texas from threatening anyone else’s voting rights for being “potentially dead.”

 

Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade (R), in response to a state law passed in 2011, compared names on the Social Security Administration’s death index with Texas voter rolls. She sorted names into “Strong” matches, with identical names, birth dates and Social Security numbers, and “Weak” matches, which have only one or two identical factors.

 

According to the lawsuit, filed on behalf of four living Texans who received notices that their voter registration was subject to cancellation because they are “potentially deceased,” Andrade recently told registrars across Texas that “potentially dead” voters must provide “evidence within 30 days that they are alive…[or] they are to be purged from the voter rolls.”

 

The complaint states that “Defendant Andrade’s attempted purge of supposedly deceased voters is totally flawed and threatens to disrupt the upcoming November election.” More specifically, the complaint argues that the rule categorizing the matches as Strong and Weak and directing notices of cancellation even to Weak matches was “adopted by the secretary without notice or public input in violation of” the Texas Administrative Procedures Act. The plaintiffs also say the rule is invalid because changes to voter registration must be pre-cleared by the federal Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act. They want enforcement of the rule enjoined, and costs.

 

“Thousands upon thousands of Texans or their families have been needlessly notified that they or their relatives are dead or potentially dead,” thus threatening their right to votes, the complaint concludes.

 

Despite (or perhaps because of) Judge Sulak’s order stopping the notifications to “potentially dead” voters, attorneys for the state of Texas announced Wednesday they would ask a federal judge to remove the case to federal court, where the State believes a three-judge panel would determine how the lawsuit proceeds pursuant to the Voting Rights Act.

-Matt Bewig

 

To Learn More:

Texas Purges ‘Potentially Deceased’ Voters From Rolls, Residents Say (by Robert Kahn and David Lee, Courthouse News Service)

Moore v. Martin (Travis County, Texas, District Court, 2012) (pdf)

Judge Orders Texas to Halt Purge of Suspected Dead Voters (by Chuck Lindell, Austin American-Statesman)

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