Voting Rights Groups Demos and Project Vote Send Intent to Sue Notices to Arizona and Florida for Noncompliance with National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).
Washington, DC — As the nation prepares for the 2008 election, a new study reveals that many states are routinely failing to offer low-income Americans an opportunity to register to vote as required by the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). Unequal Access: Neglecting the National Voter Registration Act, 1995-2007, published this week by the non-partisan voting rights groups Demos and Project Vote, shows that 12 years after the NVRA's requirements went into effect, voter registrations from public agencies that provide services to low-income Americans have declined dramatically.
Unequal Access: Neglecting the National Voter Registration Act, 1995-2007 examines voter registration data state by state, finding that in states across the nation — Virginia, Florida, Texas, Nevada and many others — public assistance agencies are neglecting to offer voter registration to all clients and applicants, as required by the law. Because of noncompliance with the NVRA, the rights of thousands of low-income citizens are violated daily.
"All Americans should have an opportunity to register and vote, but states are ignoring a federal law that requires them to offer voter registration to low-income citizens. In 2006, more than twice as many low-income Americans were unregistered as upper-income Americans. States need to follow the law. If they do, we can close the registration gap between rich and poor," says Unequal Access: Neglecting the National Voter Registration Act, 1995-2007 co-author Douglas R. Hess. "Our democracy works best when everyone, not just some, are allowed to participate."
Unequal Access: Neglecting the National Voter Registration Act, 1995-2007's findings underscore widespread state failures in enforcing the NVRA, including:
The NVRA was enacted in 1993 with the goal of increasing the number of eligible citizens registered to vote. The law requires states to offer citizens an opportunity to register to vote when they apply for or renew their driver's license ("motor voter") and when citizens apply for public assistance benefits such as Food Stamps or Medicaid. The latter provision was designed to reduce disparities in the voting population based on race and income.
"When public assistance agencies offer voter registration as the law requires, their clients register to vote," says Unequal Access: Neglecting the National Voter Registration Act, 1995-2007 co-author Scott Novakowski. "States like North Carolina and Iowa have recently improved their agency registration procedures, resulting in dramatic increases in the number of low-income citizens registering to vote. If all states were to fully comply with the law, thousands of eligible low-income voters could be drawn into the democratic process every day."
In conjunction with the publication of Unequal Access: Neglecting the National Voter Registration Act, 1995-2007, Project Vote and Demos are sending notices to Arizona and Florida for non-compliance with NVRA. Such notices are required before initiating litigation.
For more information about the National Voter Registration Act and to download a copy of Unequal Access and the letters submitted to Arizona and Florida, visit archive.demos.org or www.projectvote.org.