The Brief: Top Texas News for Nov. 2, 2012

The Big Conversation:

As early voting wraps up and Election Day approaches, new revelations about the state's attempted dead-voter purge have surfaced.

Errors plagued the state's recent purge, in which election officials repeatedly matched the names of many living Texans to those of dead people throughout the country, the Houston Chronicle's Lise Olsen reports today.

Demographic data also shows that Hispanics and blacks were more likely to be matched with dead voters.

The controversy started this fall when hundreds of voters, mostly in Harris and Travis County, began complaining that they'd received letters asking them to verify that they were alive or risk removal from the state's voter rolls. Election officials throughout the state sent about 80,000 letters to presumably dead voters after the secretary of state instructed counties to regularly scrub voter rolls as part of a new Texas law.

Four of the voters who received letters filed a lawsuit, which they dropped after Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott agreed that the state would not remove voters from the rolls who didn't respond within the specified time frame.

As the Chronicle notes, however, state elections officials have not made any commitments to improving the matching process, which compared Texas' voter rolls to the Social Security Administration's death master list.

Rich Parsons, a spokesman for the secretary of state's office, emphasized that the Social Security Administration "does not guarantee the accuracy of its own list." He also said that neither race nor ethnicity were used in the matching.

Democratic lawmakers, like state Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway, who represents a heavily black Dallas district, voiced concern about the purge. "I'm obviously very alarmed and concerned about the possible disenfranchisement of someone's opportunity to vote," she told the Chronicle, adding, "I'd like more of an investigation."

Culled:

  • Haven't voted early yet? Today's your last chance! (Use the secretary of state's website to find a polling place.) The state's vote tallies through Wednesday are now available in our early vote interactive, which shows that while the state last week appeared headed toward record turnout, numbers this week started to dip below 2008 levels. 
  • Two Democratic state representatives, Lon Burnam of Fort Worth and Armando Walle of Houston, have asked for an emergency hearing on state public safety policies after the fatal shooting of two Guatemalan men in South Texas last week. On Oct. 25, a sniper in a helicopter operated by the Texas Department of Public Safety fatally shot two immigrants and injured a third in La Joya during an attempt to pull over a truck that officers thought contained drugs. DPS has said that the vehicle posed a safety threat to nearby children and that the sniper was attempting to disable it. The ACLU has also called for an investigation into the incident.
  • The execution of Donnie Lee Roberts Jr. on Wednesday marked the 250th execution in Texas since Gov. Rick Perry took office and the 12th this year. Use our interactive feature to explore the story behind each of the 250 executions.

"It's absolutely ridiculous what we're seeing right now. It's exhausting the judges. They're being overworked. It's unreal."Raed Gonzalez, a Houston immigration lawyer, to the Houston Chronicle on the number of cases pending in the city's immigration courts

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