The Public Weighs in on Request to Change National Voter Registration Form

By Erin Ferns Lee January 7, 2014

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The Election Assistance Commission opened the floor to the public late in December, seeking comments on whether to allow Arizona, Kansas, and Georgia to require documentary proof of citizenship with the national voter registration form. Voting rights advocates, including Project Vote and a coalition of groups in Georgia, submitted comments strongly opposing the states’ request to amend the federal voter registration form.

The EAC’s request for comments relates to a lawsuit filed by Arizona and Kansas officials who seek to change the national voter registration form’s instructions to require applicants in those states to provide proof-of-citizenship documents to register to vote. The states’ request would undermine a key accomplishment of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which created a simple federal voter registration form that all states are required to accept and use. This form does not currently require documentary proof of citizenship: applicants attest to their eligibility, including citizenship, under penalty of perjury, and the state’s voter registrar oversees who is added to the rolls.

A court in the pending Kobach v. EAC case has ordered the EAC to make a decision on Kansas and Arizona’s requests by January 17. Project Vote is a defendant-intervenor in the case.

“The real effect of these types of laws is to limit who can vote,” said Project Vote Executive Director Michael Slater in a recent statement. “The intent of the NVRA was to simplify the registration process, but Arizona and Kansas want to take us backwards, and erect the very sorts of hurdles the NVRA was designed to remove.”

Photo by Aaron Harmon via Creative Commons.