Friday, February 24, 2017

Voter Registration Issues

The Civic Engagement Working group,  aided by the legal expertise and extraordinary research of our partners and the relationships established and maintained by Equal Voice with county elections’ administrators led to the discovery that in one two month period,  336 applications in Cameron County were flagged because the name on the application did not match up with the name in the DPS file. In that same period, 992 applications were flagged in Hidalgo County.

What is going on here? First, people in our region (and across the state!) may have hyphenated last names, may have two last names (Maria Guadalupe Sanchez Martinez), or may have been married in Mexico as Maria Guadalupe Sanchez de Martinez and is known in the USA as Maria Guadalupe Martinez Sanchez.

The number of people that this affects is extraordinary.  The process to fix the mistake is not a good one. Essentially, the application goes to Austin where records are compared. Social Security may have Maria Guadalupe Sanchez de Martinez; DPS may have Maria Guadalupe Martinez Sanchez and her voter application Maria Guadalupe Sanchez Martinez. 

Once the mismatch is noted, the county must send a letter out to the applicant. The applicant has ten days to respond. If they don't respond (the mail is not read, is not deliverable, is tossed out with the Church's Chicken ad) or if they don't "fix" the problem ("Maria Guadalupe Sanchez Martinez IS my name"), then their application is rejected. 

The blame is placed on the people, when the system is obviously not coordinated. (In Florida, a similar problem was fixed by simply having a real live human being check the list and note the very obvious problem). 

The committee continues to work on this

For voters registered during the period of August 15, 2016 to October 15, 2016
    • TOTAL flagged for mismatch: 336
      • DPS mismatch: 194
      • SSA mismatch: 142
    • TOTAL flagged for mismatch: 992
      • DPS mismatch: 638
      • SSA mismatch: 354  
    • TOTAL responses to notices: 474
      • Response to DPS mismatch notice: 402
      • Response to SSA mismatch notice: 72
    • TOTAL # of persons flagged for mismatch that still remain unregistered: 471   
    • TOTAL flagged for mismatch: 42,458  

We are still waiting on response from Bandera and Atascosa county, which will hopefully give us insight on how the registration policies and procedures affect counties with a different demographic breakdown. We hope that this will inform us on whether the registration process  is impacting certain communities more than others. In addition, our request to the Office of the Texas Secretary of State for more information relating to the registration system called the "Live Check" process is currently being reviewed by the Attorney General.

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