Voter roll integrity is at risk in Harris County because the county’s elected voter registration official isn’t doing her job, state and local officials said today in a press conference.
State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston) made the announcement in front of a UPS store at 1302 Waugh in Houston, where 84 people are registered to vote—and 22 have already voted in the November election.
The problem, said Bettencourt, is that Harris County Voter Registrar Ann Harris Bennett, a Democrat, is allowing commercial addresses to be used by voters across the county.
“Already there have been 22 votes out of this UPS store,” said Bettencourt. “Why do we have voter registration at a commercial address?” He said approximately 100 similar locations throughout the county also had at least 10 registered voters each.
“The bottom line is that this is not allowed under Texas law,” Bettencourt added. “This is not anyone’s physical address, yet we’ve got voter registrations here, we’ve got driver license registrations here, we’ve got problems with the jury wheel, and we’ve got problems with the public trust in all of the above.”
As Texas Scorecard reported last week, an opinion from the Texas Secretary of State’s office confirms Bettencourt’s assertion that Harris County’s voter rolls are at risk due to Bennett’s inaction. With the advice of County Attorney Vince Ryan, also a Democrat, Bennett rejected challenges of about 4,000 registered voters’ residence addresses made by local election integrity advocate Alan Vera. Those challenges included the UPS store and other commercial addresses.
“The integrity of our whole election system is around the fact that people are registered in the district in which they actually reside,” said Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, whose office is in charge of administering elections. Stanart said half the voters registered at the UPS store don’t physically live in the district—meaning they are voting in races in which they aren’t eligible to participate.
A sample reviewed by Bettencourt showed that about 50 percent live in another congressional and state Senate district, and nearly 80 percent live in another state House district.
“It is imperative that people are accurately registered,” Stanart added. “I call on the Voter Registrar to please do the right thing, please correct our voter rolls.”
“This is a bipartisan issue that all sides should be concerned about,” added District Clerk Chris Daniel. Daniel’s office maintains Harris County’s jury wheel, which he said is compromised by people being allowed to register where they don’t live. “That compromises our justice system,” he said.
“For those of you who don’t think a few votes make a difference, they do,” said Harris County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez, noting he’d won a past election by just 114 votes. “It’s incumbent on government officials to do the right thing.”
All of the officials calling today for election integrity and clean voter rolls are Republicans.
“Our goal is to get the voter roll cleaned up,” Stanart said. He and the others urged voters who had inadvertently registered at an address where they don’t live to update their registration information. “But if there’s organized activity here,” Bettencourt added, “we want to find out.”
Bettencourt also blasted Bennett and Ryan for fighting in federal court to hide records of non-citizens who have been found on the county’s voter rolls.
“The public is not going to stand for this,” Bettencourt said. “I’m calling on Ann Bennett to clean up this mess by stopping this from happening.” Concerned Harris County voters can contact Bennett’s office at (713) 274-8200.