In late July, Alan Vera, the chair of the Harris County Republican Party’s Ballot Security Committee, put on a patriotic necktie, walked into the voter registration office in Houston and challenged the registrations of some 4,000 voters — there were duplicates — in his county. A few weeks later, Lynn Lane, the official photographer for the Houston Grand Opera, noticed a letter he’d sorted for recycling. The county voting registrar, the letter said, had received information that his current address was different than the one on his registration record, and he had 30 days to respond. When Lane checked his voter registration status online, he said, it was already listed as suspended. But Lane — an active voter and a Democrat — has lived in the same location for five years, he told HuffPost.
At least 15 states, including Texas, have laws that allow challenges to a voter’s registration before an election; more than 20 states permit private citizens to challenge a voter at the polls without offering documentation that the voter is ineligible, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. Historically, challenge laws were enacted and used to suppress the votes of people of color and women, the Brennan Center said. In recent years, Americans — including Republican officials and anti-voter fraud activists — have tried to use these measures to challenge large numbers of voters at once.
“It does seem to be something that voter integrity vigilantes are seeing as a tool that they can use to go after people and make the voting process more difficult,” said Jonathan Brater, counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program.
Civil rights advocates are worried about this latest effort in Texas. Several groups wrote a letter, dated Sept. 10, to the Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos requesting that his office “publicly disavow these generalized, unsubstantiated, and targeted challenges as anti-democratic, voter suppression tactics.” (The Texas Civil Rights Project provided the letter to HuffPost.)
The Texas Secretary of State’s office did not comment by deadline.