Voter Registration at Ohio Public Assistance Agencies Skyrocket
As if we needed more proof that offering voter registration through public assistance agencies works, new EAC reporting data from the month of May continued to show a huge and successful turnaround in the state of Ohio.
In December we told you about the favorable settlement of Harkless v. Brunner, a lawsuit brought by Project Vote and our partners to ensure that Ohio public assistance agencies were providing voter registation services as required by the National Voter Registration Act . Since implementing the simple changes stipulated in the settlement agreement, applications through public agencies in the state have skyrocketed.
Ohio agencies have now reported an average of 17,000 voter registration applications in each of the first five months of 2010: nearly 10 times the monthly average from before the law suit was filed. Overall, more than 84,000 Ohio residents have applied to become registered voters at public assistance agencies so far this year, with more than 20,000 applying in March alone.
Ohio’s success is remarkable, but it is not unusual. After a similar lawsuit brought about compliance in the state of Missouri, state public assistance agencies collected more than 59,000 applications in the next five months of 2008. In 2009, over 120,000 Missourians applied to register to vote through public assistance agencies—a vast increase from the 8,000 voters per year the state averaged prior to the lawsuit.
These successes just add more evidence that registering Americans through public assistance agencies is easy and effective. By instituting modest changes to the way states supervise these agencies, and by better incorporating voter registration training and materials into public assistance agencies, states can come into compliance with the NVRA and help hundreds of thousands of low-income Americans become registered voters.
Project Vote and our partners are currently involved in similar lawsuits in Indiana and New Mexico, and are considering litigation in other states that have been neglecting their responsibilities under the NVRA. Hopefully other states will take notice of these successes, institute meaningful changes, and come into compliance with the NVRA on their own.
Billy Scott is a legal intern with Project Vote.