Voting Rights Groups Applaud District Court’s Decision In Public Assistance Voter Registration Case

Release Date: 
March 17, 2014

BOSTON, MA — On Friday, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts issued a series of rulings in Delgado v. Galvin, rejecting defendants' efforts to dismiss parts of the case, adding MassHealth as a defendant, and broadening the inquiry into the statewide failure of Massachusetts public assistance offices to provide federally required voter registration services to the Commonwealth's low-income citizens.

Read the Court's rulings: http://demos.io/1lId2f5

Voting rights groups Demos, Project Vote, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, as well as their clients, plaintiffs New England United for Justice and New England Area Conference of NAACP, applauded the decision.

We hope this ruling will motivate the Commonwealth to work with us, as other states have done, to ensure that the voting rights of low-income individuals are protected.

“The court recognized that there is a serious statewide problem in failing to provide voter registration,” said Lisa Danetz, Legal Director at Dēmos. “We hope this ruling will motivate the Commonwealth to work with us, as other states have done, to ensure that the voting rights of low-income individuals are protected.”

Two months ago, the state of Alabama signed a settlement agreement regarding similar violations with that state's NAACP, without the need for litigation. The Commonwealth has thus far refused to settle the case.

“We’re thrilled that the Court has refused to let Massachusetts derail this important suit to enforce the federal voting rights of Massachusetts’ low-income citizens,” said Catherine M. Flanagan, Project Vote’s Senior Election Counsel.  “The decision clears the way for full investigation of the Commonwealth’s violations, the first step to a court order requiring Massachusetts to provide voter registration services to its most vulnerable residents.”

Friday's decisions held that the plaintiffs undertook all necessary attempts to resolve the dispute before initiating the lawsuit, and also recognized the scope of the lawsuit should include voter registration failures by MassHealth in addition to those of the Department of Transitional Assistance and oversight neglect by the Secretary of the Commonwealth.  The rulings allow the lawsuit to go forward. 

“The Court’s order recognizes that there are still open issues in this case and we look forward to seeing them resolved,” said Robert Kengle, co-director of the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The suit was filed in May of 2012 by community groups NAACP New England Area Conference (NAACP-NEAC) and New England United for Justice (NEU4J).  

"Social service agencies provide a major opportunity in supporting families to become registered to vote and active participants in improving our communities,” stated Maude Hurd, president of NEU4J.  “We will continue to work to ensure the state is following federal laws in supporting the families in becoming registered."

Juan Cofield, president of NAACP-NEAC stated that "voter registration and voter participation are a high priority for the NAACP. As the NAACP allocates more of its resources for voter registration and participation, it will certainly hold state officials accountable for adherence to this important voter registration law."

About The National Voter Registration Act
Congress passed the NVRA to boost democratic participation by ensuring that all eligible citizens have ample opportunities to register to vote.  Section 7 of the law requires state agencies that provide public assistance, including those that administer assistance programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, TANF, and WIC, to assist their applicants and clients in registering to vote.

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Contact:

Alex Amend, Demos, 917-822-7405, aamend@demos.org
Stacie Royster, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, 202-662-8317, sroyster@lawyerscommittee.org
Michael McDunnah, Project Vote, 202-905-1397, mmcdunnah@projectvote.org