The debate in Harris County over a resident’s challenge to 4,000 voter registrations ended with the county attorney declaring them invalid, but drew attention to a quirk in Texas law that bars voter registrars from investigating what they suspect are bogus addresses. Residents of a county are permitted to challenge the voter registration of other county residents if they have “personal knowledge” a voter has listed an incorrect address. The Harris County attorney concluded local Republican Party official Alan Vera could not possibly know where 4,000 voters lived, and rejected the challenges. Vera’s list, however, included thousands of voters who listed their residences at business addresses, such as parcel stores and post offices, raising questions about how those applications were approved, and what Harris County can do to correct them. Texas law requires voters to register where they live. At the same time, state law requires counties to take voters at their word that their voter registration applications are truthful.
Registrars who suspect an address may be invalid can send letters to voters asking them to confirm where the live. If residents re-submit the same address, however, registrars must process the application. Sam Taylor, spokesman for the Texas secretary of state, said the only other remedy registrars have is to refer cases to district attorneys for prosecution.
“The Texas Election Code does not grant any sort of additional investigative authority to a voter registrar in that situation,” Taylor said. “That’s where investigators and/or law enforcement get involved.”
Taylor said the secretary of state’s office has received complaints about the issue in the past, but said instances in which voters insist they live at an address that appears commercial are not a widespread problem.
“It does occur occasionally and we do occasionally hear frustrations from county voter registrars,” Taylor said.