Complaint Against State of Georgia For Failure to Comply with NVRA

Complaint Against State of Georgia For Failure to Comply with NVRA

June 6, 2011
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Demos and other voting rights advocates file suit to force Georgia to comply with the National Voter Registration Act

Introduction

1.  This action seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to redress defendants' past and ongoing violations of their obligations under Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (the "NVRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1973gg-5.  The NVRA was adopted with widespread bipartisan support as part of an effort to make voter registration more widely available and accessible, thereby increasing the number of properly registered eligible voters for federal elections.  42 U.S.C. § 1973gg(b)(1).  The statute also reflects Congress' intent to combat the disproportionate harm to voter participation by various groups, including racial minorities, caused by discriminatory and unfair registration laws and procedures.  42 U.S.C. § 1973gg(a)(3).

2.  Section 7 of the NVRA requires that all public assistance offices, in states subject to the NVRA, distribute a voter registration application with each application for public assistance, and each recertification, renewal, or change of address relating to an individual's receipt of public assistance.  It further mandates that all public assistance offices in a covered state assist clients in completing a voter registration application (unless a client declines such assistance), provide a form that asks clients whether they wish to register to vote and includes certain specified information concerning the voter registration process, and accept completed voter registration forms for delivery to the appropriate elections authority.  Section 7 of the NVRA reflects Congress's objective to ensure that registration "will be convenient and readily available [for] the poor and persons with disabilities who do not have driver's licenses and will not come into contact with the other principle [sic] place to register under this Act [motor vehicle agencies]."  H. R. Rep. No. 103-66, at 15 (1993) (House-Senate Conference Report).  

3.  Defendant Brian Kemp, Georgia Secretary of State and "chief elections official," is responsible for ensuring Georgia's compliance with the NVRA, including Section 7, and has not fulfilled his responsibilities for ensuring that Georgia provides the voter registration services mandated by the NVRA to its public assistance clients.  Defendant Clyde L. Reese, III, Commissioner of DHS, the state agency responsible for administration of public assistance programs in Georgia, also has failed to ensure implementation of policies and procedures to make voter registration available through agency offices, as mandated by Section 7.  Indeed, the Secretary has admitted in response to plaintiffs' pre-Complaint notice that the DHS did not have consistent policies for the implementation of Section 7 at public assistance offices, but has nevertheless steadfastly refused to take appropriate corrective action to remedy past violations and prevent future violations by implementing appropriate registration procedures, and appropriate training, oversight and monitoring of DHS personnel and offices. 

4.  As a result of these ongoing violations, thousands of Georgia's low-income citizens who apply for and/or receive public assistance, including members of the Georgia NAACP and members of the Peoples' Agenda's constituent organizations, have not been and are not being offered the opportunity to register to vote or to change their voter address upon moving to a new residence.  Plaintiffs have expended and continue to expend substantial time and resources in an effort to make voter registration available to these low-income citizens — which would have been unnecessary had defendants complied with the law.  Thousands of eligible voters remain unregistered and effectively disenfranchised as a result of defendants' actions and inaction.