STATEMENT: Intent to File Lawsuit Against Missouri for NVRA Non-compliance Announced at 8/23 Press Conference

Release Date: 
August 23, 2007

Missouri — Today, Demos and Project Vote, representing the community group ACORN, sent a letter of intent to sue the Missouri Department of Social Services if the state doesn't comply with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) to provide voter registration opportunities in public assistance offices.

During a noon (Central) teleconference, the organizations' representatives will discuss the state's violations of the NVRA, which are outlined in a report "Investigating Voting Rights in Missouri: An Assessment of Compliance with the National Voter Registration Act in Public Assistance Agencies."

To join teleconference, call 800-593-9038, code 1776

In a letter to state Social Services Director Deborah Scott, attorneys for Project Vote and Demos wrote, "substantial evidence demonstrates Missouri DSS' failure to provide mandatory voter registration services at its offices as required by the NVRA." The organizations are asking for the state to outline steps to assure future compliance to prove registration opportunities. "In the absence of such a plan, we will have no alternative but to initiate litigation," the letter states.

The report reviews evidence of a sharp decline in voter registration in the state's public assistance agencies. (The report and letter are posted at www.projectvote.org.)

"Today we are calling on the state of Missouri to do its job under federal law and help Missourians exercise their basic right to vote," said Claudie Harris, Missouri ACORN chairperson. "We hold Governor Blunt responsible for failing to comply with the National Voter Registration Act."

The NVRA, commonly known as the "Motor Voter" law for its requirement that states provide voter registration opportunities when residents apply for drivers' licenses, also requires states to offer voter registration during most transactions at public assistance agencies. Congress included this provision to ensure that those who do not visit motor vehicle departments still have an opportunity to register to vote. Citizens with low incomes are among those least likely to have drivers' licenses and therefore the public assistance requirement is crucial for including them in the political process. It is the public assistance aspects of the law that Missouri has ignored, according to the report.

"The NVRA was designed to bring more Americans into the electoral process. The state's disregard for the law and the civil rights of low-income Missourians is deeply disturbing and must be remedied now," stated Brenda Wright, Legal Director of the Democracy Program at Demos: A Network for Ideas & Action, one of the counsels signing the notice letter to DSS.

For more information, contact: Tim Rusch, Demos, trusch@demos.org or (212) 633-1405 x407; Jeff Ordower, ACORN, (314) 267-4664 or Charles Jackson, ACORN, (504) 994-4669.