Indiana Reaches Settlement to Offer Voter Registration to Low-Income Citizens
Thousands of low-income Indiana residents will finally have the opportunity to register to vote at state public assistance offices, as mandated by federal law.
Today, U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt approved a settlement of a class action lawsuit brought against Indiana officials to bring the state into compliance with the National Voter Registration Act. The suit was brought by the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP on behalf of state public assistance clients injured by the state’s violation of federal law. Plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from Project Vote, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Demos, the NAACP, the Chicago law firm of Miner, Barnhill & Galland, and the ACLU of Indiana.
The NVRA requires that state public assistance agencies offer voter registration to their clients when they apply for benefits, recertify their benefits, or submit a change of address. According to the release, the state had already started implementing the settlement prior to its approval by Judge Pratt with growing success. According to the release, “-monthly average registration applications are now 4837, compared to only 105 prior to the filing of the lawsuit in July 2009.”
This victory is a part of a growing trend in enforcing federal law. In recent years, the same voting rights groups have successfully forced other states that had been disregarding the NVRA to comply. For example, applications from Missouri public assistance agencies skyrocketed from fewer than 8,000 a year to more than 130,000 a year, following a settlement of a lawsuit in 2009.
In Indiana, “the settlement sets forth the procedures that Indiana must follow for distributing voter registration applications to public assistance clients, both in its in-person transactions with these clients and in those transactions that occur by mail, over the telephone, and through the internet,” according to today’s press release. “The settlement also institutes a variety of measures aimed at promoting and ensuring compliance, including training, data collection, and monitoring.”
“This agreement was a long time coming, and represents an important victory for the voting rights of Indiana’s low-income residents,” said Nicole Zeitler, director of the Public Agency Voter Registration Program at Project Vote. “Public assistance agencies are a vital component of the voter registration system, and reach citizens who are less likely to register through other means.”