Chalk Talk

A dead issue? Attempt to purge Texas voter rolls before election is a step back in time

A dead issue? Attempt to purge Texas voter rolls before election is a step back in time

This has been a challenging week in the world of politics. The nation commemorated the 11th anniversary of the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001, and later mourned the loss of three American diplomats in the line of duty in the Middle East. These kinds of events and moments give us all reason to pause. Plain and simple…nothing compares to the loss of life.

While as a nation we grapple with the ever-changing reality of the world we live in, there are some things we can control. We can be better neighbors to one another by being more inclusive and less divisive. We can also legitimately value the strides our nation has made in the areas of diversity, equality and civility. It doesn’t mean we won’t have differing opinions, but we can be respectful and engage in more meaningful dialogue.

 Whenever I hear someone say, “We’re going to take our country back” it evokes a strong reaction. I can’t help but ask, "Who are you taking it back from and where are you taking it back to?" 

As we navigate this political season, likely the most important in my lifetime thus far, we should seriously consider what kind of nation we want to be and live in. It’s not my place to tell anyone how or who to vote for, but I do strongly encourage everyone to exercise their right and privilege to vote. A lot people fought for me to have this right and privilege and I take it seriously.

So whenever I hear someone say, “We’re going to take our country back” it evokes a strong reaction. I can’t help but ask, "Who are you taking it back from and where are you taking it back to?" As an African-American woman, that language concerns me.

One thing I’m clear about it is that I don’t want to go back in time. Yes, our nation has its challenges and a lot of people are struggling and hurting. I don’t at all make light of that. However, the answer is not to take steps backward, it’s time to move forward and make the necessary adjustments along the way. This brings me to the issue of Voter ID and the laws being enacted and proposed across the nation.

These laws evoke strong reactions from people on both sides of the argument. The Texas legislature approved a Voter ID law in the last session. Last month a federal court struck down the Texas law that would have required voters to show government issued photo identification. However, House Bill 174 is creating a different set of challenges for Texans.

HB-174 requires the Secretary of State to purge possibly dead voters quarterly using data from the Social Security Administration. That bill is the reason more than 80,000 people in Texas and 9,018 in Harris County received letters to make sure they are not dead. State Representative Sylvester Turner is aware of the bill but finds the timing of the letters unsettling.

“The problem with that is that this bill took effect September 1, 2011,” said Turner.  “My question to him on behalf of the Texas Legislative Caucus is: Why have we waited a year later in order to now start taking a look at it and we’re sending these letters out now?”

 “The problem with that is that this bill took effect September 1, 2011,” said Turner.  "Why have we waited a year later in order to now start taking a look at it and we’re sending these letters out now?”

 Rev. Max Miller, the senior pastor of Mt. Hebron Missionary Baptist Church, says his mother received one of the letters even though she voted in the July 2012 election.

He asked, “Why does it appear that senior citizens are being systematically taken off the voter’s roll by the tax assessor of Harris County? It looks like it is an attack for this election. The ones that are least likely to defend themselves are the ones that are being worked on and targeted for this election.”

While Harris County tax assessor Don Sumner says county voters don’t need to worry about being removed from the roll, Rep. Turner wants everyone to know that Secretary of State Esperanza Andrade has the final say. “The reason the federal courts struck down Voter ID is because it has a discriminatory intent and now we’re dealing with this situation,” Turner added.

Some say these are simply legal efforts to ensure there is no voter fraud. Others call it voter suppression. Whatever you call it, it’s clearly confusing and poorly timed. It is also one more thing that adds to the tense climate of this election season. We should be encouraging everyone to vote, not discouraging people by mudding up the process. My hope is that we learn to better celebrate our differences as well as our similarities. Perhaps we get better at agreeing to respectfully disagree. After all, that’s what makes this country so great!

Kim Davis is a seasoned journalist with nearly two decades of experience covering sports, news and politics in television, radio and print. If you have questions or comments for Kim or about “Chalk Talk,"you can reach her at kim@thekdcompany.com.

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