Voter Ineligibility Fought Hard - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

11/28/07 - Nacogdoches

Voter Ineligibility Fought Hard

by Donna McCollum

A state auditor's report reveals the Texas Secretary of State's Office needs to improve its voter registration oversight. They're not directing the advice to election administrator Debra Gaston. On the release date of an auditor report warning about the need to ensure that no dead people or ineligible felons are registered to vote, Gaston got commended for a job well done.

How does she do it? She  never comes to work without the local newspaper. Not so much for the news, but for the obituaries. It's her way of keeping her voter rolls neat and tidy, just like she likes them. Gaston explained,  " That does serve as a public notice for us, so we're very very adamant about keeping our roll clean and that's why we religiously brought the newspaper."

Gaston also knows whose a felon in town. She reads all the court dockets. They too come off the roll, every day. Gaston's philosophy is,  " The voter registration process never stops."  She can access her records from her home computer. On weekends, before the Sunday funnies, she often grabs the obits and makes her deletions.

This fastidious watch on the voter rolls haven't gone unnoticed. Gaston said,  " We have had some recognition from the state that we were one of the best counties in Texas as far as the rolls. They have found very very few duplicates. " 

The state is attempting to keep up with Gaston's immaculate record. Sophisticated software tracks to the minute when a duplicate registration is discovered. Gaston uses it too. Pointing to the computer screen she noticed,  " Because we keep it so clean, there's only one." She had checked it 20 minutes prior.

There is some responsibility on the voter's part to notify registrars of moves and deaths. Each card mailed out to an ineligible voter is costing taxpayers. County Judge Joe English said, " The county spent about $20,000 for elections on the amendments and that was something that the county paid for and the state of Texas didn't."

Right now Gaston's modest staff is busy double checking voter rolls for the 2008 election. Perhaps other counties should do the same. A state auditor found just over 49,000 -- or four-tenths of the state's 12.37 million registered voters-- who may have been ineligible. That includes more than 23,000 possible felons and almost 24,000 voters who may be dead. There were duplicate records for almost 2,400 voters. Auditors didn't find any cases of ineligible voters casting ballots.    

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