In a letter sent today, Mayor Sylvester Turner urged Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector & Voter Registrar Ann Harris Bennett to reject state officials’ questioning of the voter registrations of tens of thousands of Houston-area residents who became U.S. citizens in the last 23 years.
The controversial move by state officials has “placed Houston voters — who have followed every federal and state procedure for voter registration — under suspicion of violating election laws. They are essentially being asked to prove their own innocence, and will have a constitutional right taken away if they don’t comply within a short time frame. Disenfranchising naturalized U.S. citizens based on inaccurate, outdated, and arbitrary data is wrong,” the mayor wrote.
“State officials have already had to acknowledge widespread errors in their initial list of 95,000 names. As you are aware, more than 60 percent of the 30,000 names supplied to Harris County have already been removed. There’s no reason to have faith in this manifestly slapdash process,” he added.
“I urge you to resist carrying out this short-sighted policy that degrades the very people who have worked so hard to meet our citizenship requirements and play by the rules.”
Mayor Turner also mentioned Houston’s status as the most diverse big city in the U.S.
“We draw our strength from our diversity, and we take pride in our ability to attract people from all over the world. One out of every four Houstonians is foreign born,” he wrote. “We are a global community. Many of our friends, coworkers and neighbors are legal immigrants and naturalized citizens. They likely chose our city, at least in part, for its ability to absorb and celebrate many cultures. Now our state has chosen to insult and demean them.”
The authority to remove voters from the registration rolls under Texas law rests with officials in each county.