21:08 GMT24 February 2020
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    Texas' Harris County prematurely placed more than 1,700 voter registrations on a suspension list after it was challenged by a Republican official to verify voter addresses in several predominantly black communities.

    The suspensions came to light this week after the office of Voter Registrar Ann Harris Bennett sent off hundreds of letters to voters whose registrations were challenged, requiring them to confirm their home address. However, rather than giving Texans 30 days to comply, Bennett's office jumped the gun and suspended the accounts, according to the Houston Chronicle.

    Per section 16.092 of the Texas Election Code, voters are allowed to challenge registration information as long as they have knowledge of wrongdoing.

    ​Ashton Woods, a community activist with the Houston chapter of Black Lives Matter, told Radio Sputnik's By Any Means Necessary on Thursday that notices were sent to residents who had been voting actively for years and had lived in their homes for more than 10 years.

    "I submit that it is unconstitutional to challenge someone's voter registration status, but apparently they allowed the challenge, specifically in the Third and Fourth Ward areas of Houston… where they definitely targeted people who have been registered and regularly voting for over 10 years and have been at their residences for the last 10 years as well," Woods told hosts Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon. "This is affecting… one of the predominantly black parts of Houston."

    Bennett's office was challenged in July to verify the addresses of some 4,000 residents by Alan Vera, chairman of the Harris County Republican Party Ballot Security Committee, in order to ensure that county voters were casting their ballots at the correct polling places.

    Per Vera, when he and volunteers reviewed registrations, the group noticed that many voters had used the addresses of post offices or parcel stores, not their home addresses, the Chronicle reported. "This was about making sure the voter registration records were correct, so people vote in the correct elections," he said.

    Although Vera has stressed that his intentions were not politically motivated, he hasn't changed the minds of many critics as the majority of registrations challenged were of voters who lived in the Third and Fourth Wards of Texas, communities which are predominantly black.

    And Woods isn't alone in his sentiments. Odus Evbagharu, communications director for the Harris County Democratic Party, told local news outlet Houston 39 that "Republicans are taking advantage of a loophole [that] allows them to challenge voter registration."

    "They look for ways to continuously target minority voters," he added.

    Texan Lynn Lane, one of the voters who got a letter from the registrar, told station ABC13 that the challenge was "definitely about voter suppression," stressing that it "feels incredibly sided and crooked."

    Though Bennett blames the mishap on a computer glitch, the county attorney's office has intervened in the matter and launched an investigation to see if Vera's challenge is valid.

    According to ABC 13, for residents wanting to vote in Harris County's flood-control bond election on Saturday or in the upcoming November elections, all they'll be required to do is fill out a form at their polling station to confirm their address.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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