HOUSTON - Harris County Voter Registrar Don Sumners said Wednesday that it was an error to mail more than 9,000 letters to purge presumed dead voters from the rolls prior to the November election.
Sumners said the state sent two lists. One of more than 9,000 names considered to be a "weak" match to people who are dead, and the other list of more than 1,000 names considered a "strong" match. Sumners said someone in his office sent the "weak" list in error.
"It became immediately known that there were a lot of people on that 9,000 list that were still alive," he said, which prompted him to announced that no names from that "weak" list would be dropped from the rolls.
Sumners said that so far, 66 percent of the 9000 names on that "weak match" list have been reported alive.
The Secretary of State said Sumners was in violation of the law and withheld more than $700,000 in funding until Harris County came into compliance.
Sumners said the deal to release the money was reached after he agreed to mail out letters to the more than 1,000 voters on the "strong" list, who are very likely dead and can removed from the rolls within the 30-day period required by law.
Sumners said he still will not remove any voters names prior to the Nov. 6 election and said the confusion is because of the way the lists were sent from the Secretary of State.
"The list is not reliable," he said. "The Secretary of State is supposed to say, 'This is a dead person . Take 'em off,' but that's not what they did. They sent a roll that said this 'may' be a dead person, so that puts us in a position of trying to make a decision when we don't really have all the information from which to make that decision."
Several civil rights organizations have cried foul, insisting that the confusion caused by the mailings creates undo problems for the minority community.
Sumners said there need be no concerns because no one who received a letter from that original list will be removed from voter rolls prior to the Nov. 6 election.
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