Thursday, March 26, 2009

Harris County's plan for voter registration

I like the sound of this, so let's keep an eye out for how effectively it is implemented:

County Tax Assessor-Collector Leo Vasquez has put together a coalition of private organizations and large employers to make sure that residents who move within or to the county get an on-the-spot chance to fill out fresh voter registration applications.

Moving into an apartment or buying a dwelling involves signing lots of papers. Now the Houston Apartment Association and the Texas Land Title Association will make sure the papers include voter registration forms, Vasquez said Wednesday.

Continental Airlines and the Houston Independent School District are the first employers to join the coalition by ensuring that registration forms go to workers who update their personnel records with new addresses.

“Let’s hit people when they are trying to make one of those moves,” said Vasquez, who was appointed in December to succeed fellow Republican Paul Bettencourt, who resigned from his elected post.

Some poor word choices there, Leo, but the effort seems to be well-directed:

Vasquez said he created the voter registration coalition without regard to such controversies. He also said he does not plan to play a partisan role.

Registered voters who move without updating their registrations can, in most cases, vote on Election Day at the polling place for the precinct where they formerly lived. With the rise of early voting participation, where voters live within the county matters less because they can vote at any early voting station.

Having to return to an old neighborhood to vote sometimes discourages voters from casting ballots, Vasquez pointed out, so updated registrations make participation easier.

Vasquez also hopes the program will make the volume of voter registrations more consistent through the year. Typically, address changes and other registrations peak a few weeks before each election. These spikes lead to last-minute errors by those who fill out the cards and a processing backlog at the voter registrars’ office, according to Vasquez.

Fair enough. Let's see how it goes.

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