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"Lost Voters" Cost Bexar County $335,000 In Postage Alone

Chris Eudaily
TPR News
Suspense voters are those who may have moved and don't, or can't, respond to the elections office to communicate their departure from the old address.

The November constitutional amendment election is over and in Bexar County just over six percent of registered voters went to the polls.

That means a lot of voters did not show up, which isn't always because they don't care.

Every election cycle elections office workers begin their hunt to find out what happened to voters who vanish. Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen said the technical term for this lost constituency that doesn't show up to vote is called the "suspense voters."

"Every two years, we mail that card out -- the new fresh shiny voter registration card," Callanen said. "It's an official document. It comes back to us. It cannot be forwarded."

Callanen said her office mailed out 900,000 brand new voter registration cards earlier this year. But some people move across town or out of state.

"And we know like clockwork that we're going to get back 15 to 18 percent," she said. "We get back 150,000 cards that come back to us. Now we have to turn around and send them a first class letter."

About 10,000 people will respond. For the remaining lost voters, three mailings will go out for every one person, accounting for $335,000 in postage fees alone, not to mention the cost of printing the cards.

According to elections office records, San Antonio's District 8, which encompasses places like the Medical Center on the Northwest Side, has one of the highest percentage of suspense voters at 10 percent, when compared to the total number of eligible voters.

Callanen said they have to be kept on the rolls.

"We have to account for them because they could possibly show up at the poll," she said.

But they are eventually deleted. Voters who vanish are purged from the books after two federal elections.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.