Harris County rejected more voter registration applications than any other Texas county and the county’s tax assessor-collector systematically targeted Hispanics and African-Americans in voting-roll purges from 2009 to 2012, the League of United Latin American Citizens and seven citizens charged in a federal lawsuit filed on Thursday. The suit alleges the county has violated the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act and the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights. It also claims that Tax Assessor-Collector Don Sumners has not followed the terms of a 2009 settlement of a previous lawsuit the Democratic Party filed against the county’s voter registration procedures. “Sumners targets the Latino and black communities in his voter-purging by ZIP code,” said San Antonio attorney Luis Roberto Vera Jr., LULAC’S national general counsel.
Sumners characterized LULAC’s action as “another unwarranted political lawsuit.” “The actual allegations in the lawsuit, for the most part, cover the same accusations of the Texas Democratic Party suit of 2008,” Sumners said in a statement. “After months of discovery and the taking of multiple depositions, the lawsuit was resolved when the Democratic Party was unable to produce a single person who had been illegally denied the right to register and vote.” In addition, the suit claims that when Sumners, at the behest of the Texas secretary of state, recently sought to purge presumed dead voters, his actions had a disproportionate impact on minority voters. In September, Sumners’s office mailed 9,000 “Are you dead?” letters across the county. The tax assessor-collector was relying on information provided by the Secretary of State’s office, which used the Social Security number database to compile lists of strong matches and weak matches.