Texas Lawmaker Advocates Aggressive New Voter Purge

Texas State Rep. Jim Murphy (R)

HOUSTON, Texas — The Texas state representative behind some of his state’s recent anti-voter legislation has announced a new goal: purge the voter rolls, and do it soon.

State Rep. Jim Murphy (R) told ThinkProgress on Monday that if he had his druthers, Texas would “purge the rolls sooner or suspend voters.” Murphy, who last year authored some of Texas’s new restrictions on voter registration groups, argued that if a voter hadn’t voted “in some time,” that person’s registration should be suspended unless they respond to a letter from the state.

KEYES: What do you see coming down the pike as the next wave of legislation on election integrity? Are there other things that come to mind that you’ve been percolating with, trying to make happen but maybe the timing’s not quite right?

MURPHY: I would like to see us purge the rolls sooner or suspend voters. We have places where you have over 100 percent of voters in the county register. When you move, you don’t un-register yourself, you just move. We ought to have a way if someone hasn’t voted in some time that you can be put on suspense and you can send them a letter that says, ‘Are you still there? Are you still around?’

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Texas has already taken steps to try to disenfranchise infrequent voters. In June, the state began targeting 300,000 eligible voters in a purge, but the process relied on outdated information and procedures that were riddled with error. These problems led one Houston election official to refuse to purge voters because the state didn’t “provide any assurance of the accuracy of their list.” Texas already has one of the lowest registration rates in the country, without purging eligible voters.

Murphy, who represents a Houston-based district, spoke on Monday at a candidates’ forum put on by the King Street Patriots, a tea party group recently profiled by the New York Times for its efforts to challenge largely-minority voters at the polls. After narrowly losing his race in 2008, Murphy prevailed in a 2010 rematch, allowing him to push anti-voter legislation during the 2011-12 session. He told ThinkProgress that King Street Patriots, and their subsidiary True The Vote, were “absolutely helpful” in his 2010 race and he was “thankful” for their poll-watching efforts.