Voter Education

While some legislators want to make voting harder, one rep want to clear up questions of voter eligibility.

While some other legislators are working to keep people away from the ballot box (but they'll have to get past Rodney Ellis first), one state representative is trying to make sure that at least they will know why they were denied and is trying to cut down on such denials in the future. House Bill 186 by Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, would require that an election officer who refuses to accept a would-be voter must provide that person with a signed statement listing all the reasons the voter was not accepted. A copy of the statement would be kept by the state, and the secretary of state would then be required to follow up with a study of the documents and a biennial report to the Lege suggesting ways to reduce the number of eligible voters not accepted. The bill also would require that the rejected voter receive a statement explaining the circumstances under which he or she may cast a provisional ballot (a ballot that is kept sealed and only counted if it is later determined that the person is indeed eligible to vote).

"All of us have worked the polls, and all of us have worked elections," Hochberg told the House Elections Committee on Feb. 21, "and either while we're there or afterward, I've always had the experience of seeing people sort of come running out panicked, saying, 'I couldn't vote,' and they may give me a reason, or they may not. Some of them are angry because they thought they should be able to vote; others are in the wrong place or are confused about why they couldn't. And when it comes down to a dispute over this, it's often a he-said/she-said about what anybody was told, why they were denied. And typically, you don't try to resolve a controversy until much later. The provisional ballots have helped a bunch, as long as you know you can vote a provisional ballot."

On Monday the bill was sent to the Calendars Committee.

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