Houston, We Have A Voter Registration Problem

Date Put forth on October 25, 2008 by XicanoPwr
Category Posted in Elections, Elections 2008, News/Noticias, The Press

As we approach this historic election, I have to applaud local CBS affiliate KHOU’s 11 News investigative reporter Mark Greenblatt for his excellent work in tackling the controversial issue of voter suppression here in Harris County. As Latinos/as, African Americans, and the youth vote in unprecedented numbers. their increasing engagement in the democratic process will help sustain our democracy.

In a two part investigative report, Greenblatt exposes the voter suppression tactics – which tend to be passed off as “simple mistakes” or “human error” – being used to disenfranchise thousands of voters their right to vote in Harris County. These tactics are being carried out by Republican elected Paul Bettencourt, Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar.

It seems Bettencourt, has a nasty habit of excluding certain voters out of the voter rolls and is willing to lie to the Texas Legislature to make his case. Prior to this investigative report, the state office of the League of Women Voters and elections expert Lauri Van Hoose already noted that Harris County had “serious and widespread voter registration problem.”

Here are some of the details from part one of Mark Greenblatt’s report.

Van Hoose said that in Harris County there are “a high number of people being rejected due to inconsistent practices of reviewing applications.”

Van Hoose knows this because she reviewed registration records from the tax assessor’s office.

Greenblatt: “These aren’t just numbers you’re coming up with on your own?”

Van Hoose: “Right.”

Greenblatt: “These are numbers based off his information?”

Van Hoose: “Right.”

Van Hoose’s conclusion is that the problem is bigger than we think.

“This is not one or two registrations,” she said. “This is thousands of registrations.”

But on top of it, she found the county was in no rush to tell would-be voters they were ‘no good.’
Van Hoose passed her findings onto the non-partisan statewide League of Women Voters.

“Some people who tried to do this in July are just now hearing that their form is being rejected, and now its too late,” state board member Mary Finch said. She adds, “Putting roadblocks up in front of people, it’s not good”

Ultimately, Finch has come up with a conclusion for the voting troubles in Harris County.

“The problem is competence or actual election fraud,” said Finch.

As KHOU attempted to get to the bottom of this, it is obvious Bettencourt was hoping to spin this as human error, and that some people were unintentionally left off the voter rolls. While it is true honest mistakes do occur, given the number of people registering in the 3rd largest county in the US, however, it appears Houston/Harris County is not the only one experiencing this problem, but there is mounting evidence demonstrating similar patterns occurring throughout the US.

Not only was Bettencount’s demeanor during his interview a dead give, but the run around Mark Greenblatt received from the Director of Voter Registration & Gov. Liaison, George Hammerlein, in his attempt to get certain information was also telling. In one of the email exchange between Greenblatt and Hammerlein, Greenblatt had to remind Hammerlein in caps that they obligated to release “ALL DOCUMENTS AND DATA” he had requested under the Texas Public Information Act.

Part one of the report, do note Paul Bettencourt’s demeanor as he is being pressed to explain these “mistakes.” Also notice how Bettencourt easily placed blame on a temporary employee who is no longer working there.

Houston Voter Registration Problems Part 1

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The problem I have with Bettencourt’s statement, I used to work for the county, believe me, and anybody who has worked for Harris County knows there is a chain of command employees have to follow before anything is sent from the office. There is no way a temporary employee could have sent a rejection letter without additional eyes looking over their work, especially if the letter was stamped with his signature to make the letter official. If so, one must wonder of the inefficiency of Bettencourt’s office and as residents of Harris County, we should demand that our Commissioner Court to step in and intervene.

In part two, Mark Greenblatt exposes the false information Paul Bettencourt gave to the Texas House Elections Committee in the beginning of the year.

Bettencourt’s statement to the 11 News Defenders was similar to one he made nearly a year ago. It was all a part of his testimony before the House Elections Committee in January of 2008.

“We have had a history of illegal voting as well as documented fraud cases in Harris County,” he said then. “What I’m providing to you are 381 absolutely verified and documented cases.”

The hearing was part of a push to strengthen laws that could prohibit voter fraud laws.

“The 381 cases that we have provided to you with this documentation are we believe are ironclad,” he testified.

It turns out those 381 “ironclad” cases were not so ironclad after all. After his testimony, Representative Rafael Anchia discovered that out of Bettencourt’s “381 ironclad cases” only 121 are still under investigation. Adding insult to injury, only one was charged in Harris County in the past eight years.

It gets worst too, it also seems Bettencourt was adding fuel to fire xenophobic fire. He also claimed his office found 315 non-citizens trying to commit voter fraud. However, it turns out that 34 actually had openly disclosed they were not a US citizen, yet, the “County registrar gave those individuals voter cards.” One has to wonder if this was a set up, so the GOP can say “Gotcha!” and drag them out into the public square as proof that “illegals” are trying to commit voter fraud. From part two of the series:

In addition, there were also reportedly 22 non-citizens who Bettencourt testified were able to register and actually vote. But Anchia and his staff found that five of those 22 were actually U.S. citizens. Another member of the 22 had also truthfully disclosed his status as a non-Citizen, and yet Harris County gave him a voter card anyways.

It is funny when they are caught red handed in their bombastic accusation. This was very evident in the interview when Paul Bettencourt lost it and was forced to catch himself and compose himself.

Houston Voter Registration Problems Part 2
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Oh what a tangled web they weave when the GOP practice to deceive.

Truth be told, I am concern when elected officials can easily make alarmist statement such a Bettencourt while nobody holds them accountable for these false claims. If we stand idly by while the right to vote is denied to some “other,” it is our own right that is lost. In the latest poll, Rasmussen found that 50% of Texans surveyed believe voter fraud will occur, but it comes to voter suppression, only 31% of Texans surveyed believe voters will be disenfranchised on election day.

While I applaud Mark Greenblatt for a great job exposing what is taking place in the office of our GOP elected Tax Assessor-Collector, however, this shouldn’t be a partisan issue. I really hope he does a follow up because I have already encountered a person who was questioned during early voting. This person was fortunate enough to be allowed to vote. But will the next person be so lucky?

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4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. odd Scholars and Rogues » Houston, We Have A Voter Registration Problem Trackback on Oct 25th, 2008 at 11:58 am
  2. even Texas Progressive Alliance Weekly Round Up Oct. 26, 2008 « TruthHugger Trackback on Oct 27th, 2008 at 7:23 am
  3. odd Texas Progressive Alliance Weekly Round Up Oct. 26, 2008 | BlueBloggin Trackback on Oct 27th, 2008 at 7:26 am
  4. even Eye on Williamson » Texas Blog Round Up (October 27, 2008) Trackback on Oct 27th, 2008 at 7:40 am


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  1. Gravatar Icon XicanoPwr Oct 26th, 2008 at 6:00 am

    The Houston Chronicle endorses Bettencourt’s opponent.

    The most obvious cause for concern over Bettencourt’s frequent forays into politicking is the untenable shadow they cast over his function as registrar of county voters. Local Democrats have groused about what they view as hassling of minority citizens seeking to register and/or vote. Even if these complaints are unfounded, Bettencourt does himself and the office no service with his vocal partisanship. Perceptions matter. With his frequent appearances on highly partisan radio talk shows and other activities, he is giving a harmful impression.

    We believe the Democratic challenger, Diane Trautman, will clear the air of partisanship while offering able administration of the office’s core duties. We recommend a vote for Trautman as Harris County tax assessor/collector.

  2. Gravatar Icon Dee Sutton-Velez Oct 27th, 2008 at 1:51 am

    In Oregon we had a huge problem with our DMV’s giving out driver’s licenses to illegal alien who where working here using fake social security numbers. With the Oregon driver’s license they can vote in our elections illegally.

    This was not a problem when Bush courted the illegal latino voters, but now that they are swinging to Barack the GOP is calling fowl play. This should be a bipartisen effort to restore voter integrity.

    People wouldn’t be so hostile if we had comprehensive immigration reform. No more guest worker program until we can figure a way to get them to leave after their visa expires. Enough is enough. I’m for Immigration just so its legal with them on the books.

  3. Gravatar Icon Texano78704 Oct 27th, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    I managed to catch one of the interviews that KHOU did with Bettencourt. What a self-serving, pompous partisan. I would like to see a link to a news article on this “huge problem” that Oregon purportedly had.

  4. Gravatar Icon HoppinMad Oct 29th, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    I googled voter registration problems and came here. Just found out that I was denied because my application was incomplete. They are saying my name was submitted as middle name as last, last name as first and first name as middle. Well I have a copy that I printed on my computer and all of my information was submitted correctly. I even submitted my drivers license when I turned in the application in person.
    Of course I’m a democrat and registered at Bettencourts office.I may not be able to vote Tuesday. Mad as hell.

  5. Gravatar Icon XicanoPwr Oct 29th, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Please share your experience on here. I will advice you what you should do next offline.

  6. Gravatar Icon Dee Sutton-Velez Oct 30th, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    They also had Fidel Castro evil tyrant and the Cubans who understand communism. Where do you get off promoting illegal voter fraud from foriegn criminal nationals in order to steal our Democracy by using illegal racial ethnicity? You are a bigot, sir.

    What about my legal hispanic vote? Does that not matter? I know millions of legal hispanics outraged by this open border illegal criminal agenda in order to socialize everything, and do away completely with our freedom. You ought to be a shamed of yourself spewing this hate, and lying propaganda. Voter fraud is stealing this election! Si Se Puede. Yes we can take back our Country.

    Dee Sutton-Velez
    You don’t speak for me
    Hispanic activism

  7. Gravatar Icon Dee Sutton-Velez Oct 30th, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    There is massive illegal voter fraud taking place as we know it. With Democratic officials Racketeering this illegal immigrant population high jacking our Democracy, instead of chanting the British are coming we need to ask for the federal government to investigate due to the fact the State of Oregon admitted to issuing fake ID’s to Oregon illegal immigrants, some who work at the local pizza palor Galluci’s or Mazatlan, or Spanish head, and a few admitted to be illegal aliens and voting illegally in these election. So there. Among the illegal hispanic community our electoral power in places of Hillsboro is called little Mexico. Where is ICE when you need them? These are not new Americans but Illegal aliens. They shall not have a say in our Democracy. End of story.

  8. Gravatar Icon Texano78704 Oct 30th, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    “There is massive illegal voter fraud taking place…”

    “…a few admitted to be illegal aliens and voting illegally…”

    So which is it? Massive or a few?

    Voter fraud is all but a an imaginary crime in the heads of right wingnuts. They have spent millions (yes, Attorney General Greg Abbott, I’m talking about you) on investigations and have come up with a handful of misdemeanors based on minor technicalities.

    On the other hand, voter suppression is still a serious problem among the poor and minorities.

  9. Gravatar Icon kyledeb Oct 30th, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    Dee Sutton-Velez,

    Do you have any links or statistics to back up your allegations. Everything I’ve read suggests allegations of voter fraud are nothing but trumped up ways to scapegoat people. There is just no incentive to engage in voter fraud on a massive scale. The returns are too small, and the penalties are to big.

  10. Gravatar Icon jackie Oct 30th, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Voter fraud… meaning voter suppression.

    The myth of “illegal immigrants voting” is another right-wing conspiracy cooked up to make people pass harsher voter ID laws that disenfranchise mainly poor people who don’t always have ID.

    Why? Simple: the cost isn’t worth the crime.

    Voting without status is a crime punishable by deportation, and one little vote is not worth risking getting deported for anyone. People who are working in this country without papers are usually here because they’re desperately trying to provide for their families, so why would they risk everything to cast a ballot?

    Doesn’t add up.

  11. Gravatar Icon MdeG Oct 31st, 2008 at 10:12 am

    I agree with Kyle. The number of proven cases of non-citizen voting is very small. The number of proven cases of entrenched political interests trying to suppress voting by people who might vote against them is large. It’s a regular corrupt practice, and deserves to be exposed and cleaned up. This is a great piece of investigative reporting.

    There is indeed reason for concern. About voter suppression.

    “You don’t speak for me” is regarded by SPLC as a FAIR front group, and FAIR is ranked as a hate group. Think about that.

  12. Gravatar Icon MdeG Oct 31st, 2008 at 10:13 am

    I agree with Kyle. The number of proven cases of non-citizen voting is very small. The number of proven cases of entrenched political interests trying to suppress voting by people who might vote against them is large. It’s a regular corrupt practice, and deserves to be exposed and cleaned up. This is a great piece of investigative reporting.

    There is indeed reason for concern. About voter suppression.

    “You don’t speak for me” is regarded by SPLC as a FAIR front group, and FAIR is ranked as a hate group. Think about that.
    See http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?pid=1532

  13. Gravatar Icon ramona williams maiden: gaskin Feb 8th, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    happened to pull up my voter regis online and noticed a box that listed my name as spanish surname flag. what is that seeing as iam african american?

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