HOUSTON – Hurricane Harvey survivors could face a storm of confusion at polls in March. Some had their voting registrations suspended.
County authorities insist suspension will not prevent people from casting ballots. However, some may have a hard time finding their polling place.
Kimberly Truitt-Turner is frustrated. Harvey washed out her west Houston mid-rise, forced her family to float between AirBnB’s for four months while also draining the couple’s savings. Now, she is floored by words from the Harris County Voter Registrar’s office.
“The person I spoke to led me to believe that I could not vote unless I go into their office by Monday and prove my address,” Truitt-Turner said.
Cards mailed to registered voters confirm their registration and direct them where to cast ballots. Truitt-Turner, though, was unable to get mail at her old address after the storm.
She had it forwarded to a P.O. Box. However, voter registration cards cannot be forwarded, the registrar’s office said.
So, cards for Truitt-Turner and many others were returned and their registrations suspended by Ann Harris Bennett’s office.
“I want to make it very clear: if you are on the suspended list you are still eligible to vote,” Mike Lykes, Bennett’s chief of staff said.
Lykes said the office simply needs to know where displaced voters live. That means they need to turn in signed paperwork either in person or by mail.
If those voters cast ballots during early voting next month, they can vote anywhere. However, if displaced voters wait until primary day in March, those whose polling places flooded out during Hurricane Harvey may have trouble finding their way.
“This is one of the reasons Ms. Bennett is a big advocate for online voter registration,” Lykes said. “If people could just go online, put in their new address, do all their business online it would be much easier for the voters and the public.”
While pleased with the registrar’s explanation, Truitt-Turner feels storm victims deserved better communication.
For documents and more information to finish the registration process visit hctax.net.