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Texas Voters End Suit Seeking to Block Voter-Roll Purge

Oct. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Four Texas voters resolved a lawsuit that sought to stop the state from deleting as many as 68,000 possibly dead people from voter rolls before the Nov. 6 national election.

State officials have agreed that failure to reply within 30 days to a letter telling a voter she’s in danger of being purged as deceased will no longer be sufficient grounds for erasing someone’s registration, plaintiffs’ lawyer David Richards said.

“I think the purging has stopped,” Richards said in a telephone interview.

The four plaintiffs, who were told they would be dropped as deceased, didn’t challenge removal of so-called strong matches between election rosters and the national database, only weak ones that lack a complete match between a voter’s full name, birth date and nine-digit Social Security number.

They claimed the planned elimination of voter names violated the federal Voting Rights Act, which requires the state to get permission for changes in electoral procedures from the U.S. Justice Department or a three-judge panel.

State Judge Scott H. Jenkins in Austin yesterday signed the agreed-upon order ending the case and lifting a Sept. 20 temporary bar on the voter-roll purge imposed the same day the four voters filed suit. Attorney General Greg Abbott had asked for dismissal of the case or dissolution of the restraining order. A hearing was scheduled for today.

Voter registrars in Dallas County and Harris County, which includes Houston, had balked at completing the purge. Harris County Voter Registrar Don Sumners said he was concerned the state’s dead-voter list was inaccurate and that hundreds of voters contacted his office to refute reports of their deaths after getting notices their registrations would be canceled.

“Texas has long had in place statutes that mandate a voter’s registration should be canceled by a county registrar when it is determined that a voter is deceased,” Abbott said in a Sept. 21 court filing. “This matter concerns the integrity of voter registration in Texas,” he said.

“Each voter who receives such a notice is simply asked to provide the relevant county registrar with information demonstrating the voter remains eligible to vote,” Abbott said, asking to have the suit dismissed.

In the event the judge disagreed, Abbott asked the judge to dissolve the restraining order and allow county registrars to continue investigating voters who are “weak” matches with the U.S. Social Security Administration’s master death list.

“Today’s order is another step toward improving the integrity of the election system,” Abbott said yesterday in a statement. “The order means dead voters can and should be deleted from the rolls and allows for the removal of dead voters to continue.”

The case is Moore v. Morton, D-1-6N-12-002923, District Court, Travis County, Texas (Austin).

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Harris in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net; Kelley Shannon in Austin at kshannon10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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