The Big Conversation:

With the state's voter ID law still tied up in court, another voting-related controversy has surfaced.

The Houston Chronicle reported Sunday that voter rolls in 16 small counties in Texas appear to contain more registered names than citizens of voting age. Comparing voter rolls to 2010 census figures, the Chronicle found such discrepancies in several rural counties, including Chambers, Polk and Trinity in East Texas and Maverick and Presidio along the border.

Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog organization, said it would ask the Texas secretary of state to investigate the matter out of concern for potential voter fraud.

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"One bad vote is a vote that can ruin an election and so it's important that every county no matter how small have the procedures in place to make sure their rolls are up to date and clean and ultimately, under federal law, the state is responsible for this," Tom Fitton, the group's president, told the Chronicle. "Not only does it affect federal elections but in the case of Texas, state and local elections would be impacted as well."

The records could fuel conservatives' concerns about voter fraud, which they've cited in supporting and passing a voter ID law that has since been intercepted by the U.S. Justice Department, which called the law discriminatory. Democrats and civil rights groups have accused Republicans of overstating worries of voter fraud to keep minority voters — who are least likely to have ID — away from the polls. The case now awaits a D.C. district court.

But Rich Parsons, a spokesman for the secretary of state, told the Chronicle that there's often an explanation for such disparity between voter rolls and population counts. For instance, college students, who can vote on their campuses but are often counted as residents of their home counties, could inflate the rolls. In fact, the largest discrepancy appeared in Waller County, home to Prairie View A&M University.

Lindy Madden Warren, the tax-assessor collector for Trinity County, which reported 200 more eligible voters than citizens of voting age, said she works hard to keep the records free of errors.

"But our voters list is only as good as the information the voter provides us," Madden Warren said. "You can get in more trouble for removing them than you can from leaving them on the list ... And of course, we know just about everybody around here — and there's not dead people coming from the grave voting."

Culled:

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  • U.S. Senate candidate David Dewhurst waded into the Masters golf tournament debate on Friday, joining Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich in calling for the all-male Augusta National Golf Club to admit women, The Dallas Morning News reports. Ted Cruz and Tom Leppert, two of Dewhurst's U.S. Senate rivals, slammed the politicians for engaging in debate over a nongovernmental matter. “The Constitution protects the freedom of association for private organizations, and the last thing we need is the federal government regulating the game of golf," said Cruz spokesman James Bernsen.
  • CNN confirmed Friday that Rick Santorum met privately with former rival Rick Perry in Austin on Tuesday. A Perry spokesman, who wouldn't discuss the specifics of the meeting, called it a "courtesy visit." Santorum has said he plans to mount a vigorous campaign in Texas, but he hasn't landed the endorsement of Perry, who endorsed Newt Gingrich after dropping out of the presidential race. "Perry remains a Newt backer," Perry's spokesman told CNN.
  • Wilmer-Hutchins ISD, plagued by financial and academic troubles, was closed six years ago by the state. But as the Tribune's Morgan Smith reports in the fourth installment of her five-part series on struggling schools, the Dallas area — boasting three new campuses, including a high school that is attracting students from across the region — is on the verge of academic transformation.

"A great many observers have compared this race to the Florida Senate race between Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio, and I think there are undeniable similarities." — U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz at a recent campaign stop in Abilene

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