New York — Millions of low-income Americans can be brought into the political process through proper implementation of an often-neglected provision of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), according to a report published recently by Demos, and cited in yesterday's New York Times editorial, A Welfare Check and a Voting Card.
The NVRA provision requires states to provide voter registration services to applicants and recipients of public assistance benefits. And the time is ripe to ensure that voter registration is provided at public assistance offices: many public assistance programs are experiencing significant growth, with participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ("SNAP", formerly Food Stamps), being at an all-time high.
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Despite these victories, Demos' research shows that noncompliance is still a huge problem, with a 62 percent decrease in the number of voter registration applications from public assistance agencies between implementation of the NVRA in 1995-1996 and the latest reporting period of 2007-2008. In the report Demos continues its fight to raise awareness and achieve compliance with the NVRA by making a number of essential recommendations.
"As the economic downturn continues to impact the country and increasing numbers of individuals turn to public assistance, the NVRA has never been more important for ensuring that low-income citizens have a voice in the democratic process," said Scott Novakowski, Senior Policy Analyst in the Democracy Program at Demos and author of the report.
"But effective implementation of the NVRA does not happen in vacuum. State-level officials must take responsibility for ensuring local offices are in compliance with the law. As Demos' experience in working with states has shown, the adoption of simple procedures in line with general principles of effective program management can produce dramatic success."