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Texas Matters: Getting registered to vote, deadly sour gas and 'Missing in Brooks County'

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Jan. 31 is the deadline to register for the March 1 primary. And never before has it been more difficult to register to vote in Texas – not since the voter registration system was created when the poll tax was eliminated.

The Texas history of voter registration is marked with numerous incidents of racial discrimination which continues as the state government does little to nothing to make this task easier. James Slattery is the senior attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project. He said the voter registration deadline itself is an indicator how Texas makes getting registered as difficult as possible.

“It is the furthest away from the election that is allowed in the United States. And then that is what Texas has set. In fact there doesn’t even need to be a voter registration deadline. There are a number of states that use what is known as same day voter registration,” Slattery said.

Silent And Deadly – Sour Gas

In West Texas oil fields, a rotten egg stinky gas is commonly released from the oil wells – it’s hydrogen sulfide and it’s as lethal as it is smelly. The Texas Railroad’s Commission is supposed to license these “sour wells” but a new report says Texas is failing to adequately regulate these sites and the toxic emissions. And that can have deadly consequences.

“The railroad commission is not following up and making sure that these operators get the permits they need, and they are allowing the industry to basically tell on themselves. So that would be like, if you were driving and you were speeding and you got home and called the DPS and said, Hey, I was, and you need to come give me a ticket,” said Sharron Wilson field advocate with Earthworks.

Missing in Brooks County

Migrants crossing the southern border without authorization go missing in rural South Texas more than anywhere else in the U.S. And using death as a deterrent against illegal immigration is a calculated choice made the U.S. government — without asking the question, 'Should crossing the border be a death penalty offense?'

“Missing in Brooks County” is a new documentary that exposes how border policies have contributed to the deaths of thousands of migrants in South Texas.

It airs Jan. 31 on PBS's "Independent Lens."

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi