October 19, 2012 - Lawsuit Forces Partial Settlement for Harris County, Texas Voters
Harris County Agrees to Notify in Writing 9,000 Affected Voters Within the County and Advise That Their Right to Vote Will Not Be Challenged
Washington, DC – Today, a partial agreement was reached in response to a lawsuit initiated by LULAC, Project Vote, the Campaign Legal Center, and the Law Offices of Brazil and Dunn against Harris County, Texas, challenging the legality of Harris County’s voter purge and voter registration program.
Earlier this fall, at the suggestion of the Texas Secretary of State, Harris County sent letters to over 9000 voters that they identified as deceased. The letter further informed that the voter had thirty (30) days to prove they were not deceased or the voter would be removed (purged) from the rolls. The Harris County Registrar suspended the program in response to numerous complaints from voters claiming they were, in fact, not deceased. However, even though the County did not complete the removals, the voting rights groups filed suit out of concern that recipients of the letters would believe they had been removed from the rolls and would not vote in the election. The state’s initial identification of more than 9000 individuals from Harris County proved to be wildly inaccurate. In response to the lawsuit, Harris County has agreed to send a written notice letter to each of the more than 9000 voters advising them that they will not be removed from the rolls and may vote in the upcoming general election. The letter states: “The purpose of this letter is to confirm to you my public announcement and personally advise you that you will remain on the Harris County Voter Registration Roll through the Nov. 6 election.”
“Harris County did not pay any regard to the lives they disrupted or the tax payer money misspent with a voter purge program that wrongly rejected legitimate voter applications through discriminatory practices,” said National LULAC President Margaret Moran. “Today, this action by Harris County in response to the lawsuit sends a message that the Latino community and organizations like LULAC are paying close attention to attempts to dilute minority voter turn-out in Texas.”
“We are encouraged that the County is taking a step toward remedying its mistake,” said Catherine M. Flanagan, Director of Election Administration for Project Vote. “We filed this suit out of concern that these letters would discourage and deter these voters, a disproportionate number of whom are people of color.
Mr. Wade Hughes, a paralyzed veteran and one of the Plaintiffs in the litigation was informed by Harris County that his voter registration 2010 application was rejected. Harris County has now acknowledged that Mr. Hughes met all legal requirements and is a duly registered voter who is eligible to vote in the upcoming election. With regard to another plaintiff, Ms. Terra Wiggerfall whose voter registration application was also rejected, the County reviewed again her properly completed voter registration application and has forwarded that application to the Texas Secretary of State for approval. If approved, Ms. Wiggerfall will be permitted to vote in the November general election.
“Although Mr. Wade Hughes and likely Ms. Wiggerfall will be rightly placed on the rolls, we remain concerned about the County’s rejection of applications, particularly those from people of color,” added Flanagan.
J. Gerald Hebert of the Campaign Legal Center said: “The right to vote is a precious and fundamental right for all Americans.” He added: “While it is unfortunate that a lawsuit had to be brought against Harris County to achieve this result, Harris County has done the right thing by informing over 9000 voters that they have not been removed from the rolls and can vote in the upcoming election.” Hebert credited Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan and his office for protecting the right to vote of the more than 9000 Harris County voters who had been informed that they would be removed from the voter rolls, including many Republicans, Democrats, veterans and students.”
To read the settlement letter from Harris County, click here.
To read the letter that will be sent to impacted voters, click here.