The Harris County Attorney’s office on Tuesday defended Tax Assessor-Collector Don Sumners’ decision not to purge presumed-dead voters from the rolls until after the November election, and accused the secretary of state’s office of not following the law in providing a list of 9,000 such voters to the county. About 72,800 voters statewide have received or will receive letters telling them records suggest they may be dead and that they must act within 30 days to stay on the rolls. The list was generated by the secretary of state using the Social Security Administration’s master death file, as outlined in a new state law. “The notice from the secretary of state did not make the required determination that the voters on the list were deceased,” County Attorney Vince Ryan said, adding that two of his attorneys received the letters. “This action by the Texas secretary of state is outrageous, wrong, and unlawful.” Ryan also said the state cannot force Sumners, as the county voter registrar, to send the letters.
A spokesman for Secretary of State Hope Andrade disagreed, saying the office followed the law and that the provision requiring the office to verify a voter’s death before notifying the counties has been superseded by a more recent law. “We were directed under House Bill 174 to do this. Our office has federal and state requirements to maintain an accurate and secure voter registration list,” Rich Parsons said. “Mr. Sumners has been aware of this for almost three months. Mr. Sumners has never once raised an objection or concern about this process.” If this process removes some voters from the rolls in error, Parsons said, they still will be able to cast ballots in November.