Ohio citizens will be ensured access to voter registration at Ohio public
assistance offices as a result of a settlement agreement submitted to Federal
District Court Judge Patricia A. Gaughan over this past holiday weekend.
successfully resolves a three-year old lawsuit filed against the Ohio Secretary
of State (SOS) and the Director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family
Services (ODJFS) in September 2006 by Lorain resident Carrie Harkless,
Cleveland resident Tameca Mardis, and the Association of Community
Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) charging widespread violations of the
federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). Section 7 of the NVRA requires
public assistance agencies to provide voter registration opportunities to their
pre-suit investigation and discovery in the case revealed that many of Ohio’s county public assistance
offices were ignoring their responsibilities to provide voter registration to
their low-income clients.
Currently, only seventy-one percent of low-income Ohioans are registered
to vote compared to ninety percent of affluent Ohioans.
Before the lawsuit,
there was no state official overseeing the state’s compliance with the federal
law. Although Ohio has designated
the Secretary of State as its chief election official responsible for NVRA
compliance, at the time the lawsuit was filed, then-Secretary of State Kenneth
Blackwell contended that the state’s obligation to provide voter registration
services to its low-income residents was satisfied by the maintenance of a
toll-free hotline for public assistance offices to call. ODJFS claimed that
Ohio law prohibited it from ensuring compliance by county offices.
“As a result of the
steps the Secretary of State and ODJFS Director will take, we expect hundreds
of thousands of voting-eligible low-income Ohioans to be registered to vote,”
said Lisa Danetz, Senior Counsel in the Democracy Program at Demos and co-lead
counsel for the plaintiffs.
"We applaud the integration of voter registration into agency
processes as well as the planned monitoring of the county public assistance
Representational Bias in the 2008 Electorate reviews
the story of who was eligible to vote, who was registered to vote, and
who did vote in the 2008 general election. Analyzing the November
Voting and Registration supplements of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current
Population Survey, the report offers detailed information on
registration rates and voting behavior based on key demographic
factors, including race/ethnicity, age, gender and marital status,
income, education, residential mobility, and disability status. The
report also provides registration and turnout rates for each state,
with comparative rankings.
By comparing this data with those from other recent elections, the
report presents a picture of the growing electorate in the United
States, and identifies the changes in the extent to which participation
in our federal elections is–and is not–representative of the population
that is eligible to vote in America.
To read the full report click here.
On July 9, Project Vote and a coalition of voting rights groups—including Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Demos—filed lawsuits in Indiana and New Mexico, to compel public assistance agencies in
those states to provide their clients with the opportunity to register
to vote. Today, Project Vote is releasing a new report, Registering Low-Income Voters through Public Assistance Agencies in Missouri, which shows just how well this program can work.
Missouri went from having one of the worst public agency registration rates in the nation to having one of the best through the work of the Public Agency Voter Registration Project, a coalition of voting rights groups to bring states into compliance with the public agency registration requirements of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). This new case study explains how this success was achieved, from the first surveys to document the poor performance of Missouri public agencies, through the court order that compelled compliance in July 2008, all the way through to last month's successful settlement of the lawsuit. As a result of this work, public assistance agencies in the state of Missouri went from collecting fewer than 8,000 applications a year to collecting over 100,000 applications in just eight months.
To read this exciting new case study, click here.
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