AUSTIN â" Dallas Countyâs top elections official has joined her counterpart in Harris County and decided not to purge local voter rolls based on new information from the Texas secretary of stateâs office until after the November election.
Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole said Wednesday that her office does not have sufficient staff or time to check out all names on a list sent out last week by the secretary of state indicating that some area voters may be deceased.
The secretary of state, acting under a 2011 law enacted by the Legislature, notified county officials across the state that nearly 77,000 voters may be dead and should be checked out locally to determine if they should be struck from voter rolls. About 9,000 voters in Dallas County were identified.
Pippins-Poole said itâs too close to the election to act, and doing so could jeopardize some citizensâ right to vote.
âWe absolutely intend to comply with the law, but we need enough time to process these reviews,â she said. âUntil we hear something different, we believe this is the best way to handle this.â
The secretary of stateâs office compared current voter rolls with a master list of deceased or potentially deceased Texans compiled by the Social Security Administration. After its review, the state compiled a list of voters who had a âstrong matchâ between the two lists and those who had a âweak match.â
Pippins-Poole said that of the 9,000 names from Dallas County, only 830 were found to have a strong match. All of those residents are being sent letters asking them to respond if they are alive and still registered to vote â" but they will not have to do so until after the Nov. 6 election. A strong match means the same last name, birth date and full Social Security number on both lists.
As for the other voters who were identified by the state based on weak matches â" the same last name and last four digits of the Social Security number â" Pippins-Poole said her office will not pursue additional verification.
She said that the Social Security Administration, whose master list is being used by the secretary of state, has put a disclaimer on its own information. Further, she noted that cleanups of voter rolls normally occur during the summer so that that there is plenty of time to correct mistakes before the fall election.
âDue to redistricting and the lateness of the primary and runoff elections this year, we were prevented from conducting a review of the voter rolls in the normal time frame,â she said. âWe want to make sure that our citizens have every opportunity to preserve their right to vote.â
Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Don Sumner, the countyâs chief elections officer, has taken a similar stance, saying he wonât purge voter rolls based on the secretary of stateâs list until after the election. But elections officials in other counties say they will remove voters who are thought to be deceased before the November election â" unless those voters respond.
Even then, said Rich Parsons, a spokesman for Secretary of State Hope Andrade, if a voterâs name is mistakenly removed from the rolls, he or she can still cast a ballot by showing up at the voting location and showing proof of their identify.
Parsons said this is the first time the Social Security Administrationâs master list on deceased Texans is being used to verify voter eligibility under the 2011 law.
âIt was our intent to do it after the March primary, but the redistricting litigation delayed the primary and we did not have a window of opportunity to carry out the law until now,â he said.
Under the law, voters are normally given 30 days to respond if they are erroneously identified as deceased.