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New Voter Registration Rules Could Bring More Poor People to the Polls

The Michigan Messenger

Is Michigan following the law?

Demos reports that in 2008 over 11 million low-income adult citizens remained unregistered to vote and the registration gap between low-income and high-income citizens was over 19 percentage points. And changes in how voter registration is done at public assistance agencies can has already shown dramatic results in other states.

In Ohio registration at public assistance agencies has soared following a settlement of a Demos case over compliance with federal voter registration laws at public assistance agencies.

"In the first five months of 2010 (January through May), over 84,000 low-income people have applied to register to vote at public assistance offices in Ohio, following completion of the settlement agreement in that case in November 2009," said attorney Brenda Wright, director of the Democracy Program at Demos. "This amounts to almost 17,000 per month, compared to just 1,755 registration applications per month that Ohio agencies were collecting before we filed suit."


On June 1 the DOJ Civil Rights Division issued updated and more detailed information on which offices must provide registration services, who must be offered the forms, what type of assistance must be provided and how the forms are to be handled.

According to Demos a non-partisan public policy research and advocacy organization headquartered in New York City, the guidance sends a strong signal to states of the importance of providing voter registration as required by federal law and represents a departure from the practices of the Bush Administration, which did not enforce the public assistance provisions of NRVA.