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The Brief: Sept. 11, 2012

As redistricting and voter ID await further court action, a smaller (but bleaker) round of voting drama has erupted in Harris County.

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The Big Conversation:

As redistricting and voter ID await further court action, a smaller (but bleaker) round of voting drama has erupted in Harris County.

As the Houston Chronicle reports, about 9,000 Harris County residents have recently received letters saying their voter registration could be canceled — because they're listed as possibly dead. 

The letters, which some voters received this weekend, ask the recipients to verify that they are alive or face removal from voter rolls.

The names of the possibly deceased came from the Texas secretary of state via the Social Security Administration, which provides data that the state uses to conduct regular purges of dead voters under a new state law, according to the Chronicle

But after the county on Monday received hundreds of complaints from individuals who had received the letters, Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar Don Sumners announced that no voters would be purged from the rolls before the November election. The data, he said, was unreliable.

The secretary of state's office, though, appeared to take issue with Sumners' decision. 

"Our office has federal and state requirements to maintain an accurate and secure voter registration list," Rich Parsons, a spokesman for the secretary of state, told the Chronicle. "If any of those people are deceased, the law requires that they be removed from the voter registration list. Mr. Sumners' decision would prevent that."

The paper notes that Travis County also sent out 2,200 similar letters and has received about 100 calls from concerned — and living — residents.


  • Bob Gammage, a onetime Democratic state lawmaker, congressman and gubernatorial candidate, died Monday of a heart attack at the age of 74. While serving in the Legislature, Gammage was best known for his involvement in the so-called Dirty 30, a group of state lawmakers who in 1971 united against House Speaker Gus Mutscher, who was under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Gammage, who mounted a run for governor in 2006, also had another claim to fame: defeating Ron Paul in a congressional race in 1976 — though Paul came back to beat Gammage two years later.
  • Former first lady Laura Bush, who has largely avoided politics since her husband left office, attended a private fundraiser on Monday night in Oklahoma City for Mitt Romney. Bush joined Ann Romney at the fundraiser — one of two she will attend, according to The Associated Press.
  • After Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's electoral stumbles this year, new opportunities await top political consultants in the state. As the Tribune's Jay Root writes, one name rises to the top of nearly every list: Jason Johnson, who helped lead Ted Cruz to victory this year in his U.S. Senate primary.

“If anyone in Italy is looking to relocate, to expand, especially in the United States, their opportunity to succeed is better in Texas than any other state.”Rick Perry on a conference call from Italy, where he's meeting with Formula One promoters and touting Texas' business environment


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