Notice Letter on NVRA Enforcement in Alabama

Notice Letter on NVRA Enforcement in Alabama

June 13, 2012

This letter details violations of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and demands that the Alabama Secretary of State act immediately to bring the state into full compliance with the law or face litigation.

Section 7 of the NVRA requires state public assistance agencies that administer federal programs such as Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps), and Medicaid to provide voter registration services to their applicants and clients.

According to U.S. Election Assistance Commission data, the number of voter registration applications submitted at Alabama public assistance offices decreased by more than 75% from its peak in 1995-1996 to the most recent reporting period of 2009-2010.  This drop in voter registrations is particularly significant given that the number of initial food stamp applications in Alabama during the same time frame increased by 60%.

Evidence cited in the notice letter strongly suggests that Alabama’s serious and widespread violations of the NVRA are responsible for the severe reduction in voter registration at its public agencies.  The vast majority of DHR and Medicaid applicants and clients are not being offered voter registration opportunities, and many agency offices do not even have voter registration applications on hand.

Alabama must make sure the NVRA is properly implemented by making prompt changes sothat all of its citizens, including the hundreds of thousands who receive public assistance, are able to participate in elections.  In short, Alabama must improve its guidance for agency staff and institute procedures to ensure that frontline workers fulfill their federally-mandated obligation to provide voter registration services.

The letter serves as a notice letter in an attempt to obtain compliance with the public assistance provisions of the NVRA without the need for litigation.  It urges the Secretary to advise us promptly of the steps her office intends to take to remedy Alabama’s violations of Section 7 of the NVRA and notes that we are prepared to meet with the Secretary and other state officials to assist in developing a comprehensive plan for compliance.

We note, however, that in the absence of such a plan, we will have no alternative but to initiate litigation at the conclusion of the statutory 90-day waiting period.