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States violating voter registration laws: advocacy groups

[JURIST] A collection of advocacy groups filed suit Thursday against New Mexico and Indiana [complaints, PDF] alleging that the states have failed to comply with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) [text] by not providing voter registration cards at public assistance agencies. Commonly known as the "Motor Voter Act," NVRA requires that states make voter registration materials available in "all offices in the State that provide public assistance," or are "primarily engaged in providing services to persons with disabilities." Advocacy groups Project Vote, Demos, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), and the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law [advocacy websites] sought injunctive relief from federal courts, alleging that the states have consistently failed to provide registration materials at food stamp, Medicaid, and other public assistance offices. Brenda Wright [official profile], director of Demos' Democracy Program, said that the non-compliance has reduced low-income voter registrations [Demos report, PDF] by 91 percent in New Mexico and 97 percent in Indiana, compared to the first years of the NVRA.

Last month, the US District Court for the Western District of Missouri [official website] approved a settlement [Lawyer's Committee press release] between the coalition and the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) [official website] allowing recovery of $450,000 in legal costs. The court issued a preliminary injunction in July 2008, requiring DSS to provide voter registration and assistance to their clients. The Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] has also brought several cases [case materials] seeking enforcement of the NVRA. In 2007, the DOJ's Civil Rights Division [official website] announced [JURIST report] that they would be increasing NVRA enforcement efforts.

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