Leaders blast Third Ward voter suppression efforts

Democratic leaders are blasting a state law that is putting voters in Third Ward at risk. Several Third Ward residents recently received notices from Harris County about voter registrations being suspended until voters could provide proof of their residence to the county in order to vote in coming elections.

It’s all part of a Republican-led challenge in the Texas Election Code allowing registered voters in Harris County to challenge the registration of other voters. According to the Texas election code, a registered voter may challenge the registration of another voter. Alan Vera of the Harris County Republican Party delivered 4,000 challenges to the Harris County Registrar.

“This law should be struck down,” said Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. “If you have legitimate eligibility, you have the right to vote. This law is challenging and saying ‘I don’t like you and I’m going to file a challenge against you,’ no matter how weak that challenge is.”

Republicans say the Democratic voter registrar for Harris County– Ann Harris Bennett– ‘jumped the gun’ and did not follow the law since thousands of voters received letters of voter registration suspension, instead of receiving a notice of 30 days to respond to proof of residency.

Republicans say she has created the voter confusion.

Vera is adamant that this isn’t a political attack.

“The goal is to make sure people are voting in the correct election. If there was something weird about your address, we challenged it,” Vera said.

However, the Harris County Democratic Party isn’t buying that.

“Republicans are taking advantage of a loophole,” Communications Director Odus Evbagharu said. “It allows them to challenge voter registration, and they look for ways to continuously target minority voters.”

Erroneously or not, the challenge has resulted in some lawfully registered voters in minority neighborhoods seeing their right to vote jeopardized so Jackson Lee is seeking federal intervention.

“I’m asking Republicans and Dems to join in this effort that no single voter is denied the right to vote,” Jackson Lee said. “And for the dept of justice to stand up and ask the state of Texas to stand down this law and have this law declared as an unconstitutional law. And to not allow mischief and mishap on people with bad attitudes about someone’s viewpoint or someone’s neighborhood or someone’s religion to be denied their right to vote.”

The Harris County Attorney’s Office is reviewing the affidavit concerning all Harris County residents.

“This is not just the Third Ward area, it’s all across Harris County,” said Harris-Bennet . “I have done my due diligence in sending out this letter. We are not there to take eligible people off the rolls. I will fight to make sure every eligible voter in Harris County is on that roll.”

Harris-Bennet said a software glitch put some people in suspense mode when they went to check their voting status, but confirmed that the issue has been fixed.

“We want residents to go back and check to make sure they are showing as active,” she said. “But please rest easy that I will be protecting the voter roles for residents in Harris County.”

The midterm election is November 6, with early voting starting October 22.