Returned voter registration cards could mean lower turnout next year

The number of registered voters in Jefferson County has risen to nearly 147 thousand, but so has the number of voter registration cards the post office has had to return to the county.

That means Tropical Storm Harvey could have a severe impact on voter turnout in next year's election.

Every odd numbered year, the county's Voter Registrar sends a mass mail out of voter registration cards. Typically, three thousand of them are returned to sender.

This year, post Harvey, almost eight thousand of them could not get delivered, mostly in Port Arthur. That's a pretty good indication of how many Jefferson County residents remain displaced from their homes.

Rafael Nunez feels blessed to be able to wash his jeep in his own driveway.

Tropical Storm Harvey flooded his home, but he and his family were able to return to their house fairly quickly.

"We all got together, all my families, pretty big family just ended up working real hard to get the house back and running," said Nunez. "It's just hard, it's not easy."

But Nunez knows many of his neighbors have it worse. He lives on Fourth Street in Port Arthur. Harvey hit hard, leaving few homes untouched.

"It's hard seeing people displaced from their homes," said Tavia Francis.

Fancis is the postal carrier for this street.

"Some of the houses are very vacant, so you're not really sure if they're in the home, unless you see them, and they'll let you know if they have a change of address or you can leave the mail and they'll pick it up."

What Francis can't deliver is returned to sender.

"It's a lot. It's just we see yellow cards in our sleep."

Thousands of those pieces of undelivered mail have ended up here, at the Jefferson County Voter Registrar's Office.

"We got thousands back that said undeliverable," said Allison Nathan Getz, the Voter Registrar.

Nearly eight thousand voter registration cards did not make it to voters. That's five thousand more than during an average year.

Voter Registrar Allison Nathan Getz says 15 hundred came back marked temporarily displaced. The rest remain a mystery.

"You're just not sure if people have moved out of the area permanently or if they're coming back."

But Getz and her staff are working hard to locate them.

"Here are some vacant ones."

Especially with 2018 just around the corner.

"Oh, it's a huge election year, because our local elections are what affects us every day, and so that's very important and we want to make sure that everyone is voting where they need to be."

A sentiment shared by Nunez.

"Yes sir, I actually am worried about it, cause if we don't have a voice in this community, then who will."

The Voter Registrar says people who are temporarily displaced are still registered and can vote in Jefferson County.

As for any other questions or concerns, just call the Registrar's Office at 835-vote That's 835-8683.

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