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Michigan Failing to Offer Voter Registration to Public Assistance Clients E-mail

National Voting Rights Groups Put Secretary of State Johnson on Notice of Voting Rights Violations

August 22, 2011

(Detroit, Michigan) - Citing clear evidence that the State of Michigan is failing to provide low-income residents with a legally-mandated opportunity to register to vote, attorneys from Demos, Project Vote, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL), and the NAACP sent a pre-litigation notice letter on August 19, 2011 to Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, on behalf of the Michigan State Conference of the NAACP.  The letter demands that the Secretary immediately act to bring Michigan into compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) or face litigation.

Section 7 of the NVRA requires state public assistance agencies, which provide services such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid, to provide voter registration services to their clients. In the first two years after the NVRA became effective in Michigan in 1995, the State registered more than 79,500 people through public assistance agencies.

However, according to evidence cited in the notice letter, the local offices of the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) have largely disregarded this law in recent years.  For example, looking at registration data for 2005-2006 and 2007-2008, there was an 82.5% decrease in the number of voter registration applications submitted through public assistance agencies in Michigan – even though 2008 included a historic presidential election for which high voter registration at public assistance agencies would be expected.  Field investigations found that public assistance clients around the state are not being provided with voter registration applications, contrary to the requirements of the NVRA.

Election Legislation Threats and Opportunities Update E-mail
As part of Project Vote's ongoing effort to keep you informed about the changing landscape of election legislation, we are pleased to provide the second installment this year in our ongoing Election Legislation Threats and Opportunities series. 
Unfortunately, in 2011, it has become clear that most of the energy is being spent by partisan forces intent on passing restrictive voting laws designed to significantly reduce turnout in the 2012 election. While there have been some beneficial legislation passed—and an encouraging public outcry against voter ID and other restrictive measures in many states—the story so far is of a legislative onslaught designed to make it harder for Americans to vote. 
Project Vote Communications Manager Erin Ferns Lee has been monitoring election legislation in all 50 states and the U.S. Congress. In this new memo, Erin provides a comprehensive analysis of recent election legislation successes and failures, and provides insight into what we can expect in 2012. 
You can download this new memo here.
Federal Judge Rules that Lawsuit against the State of Louisiana Over Failure to Offer Voter Registration Services May Continue E-mail

July 21, 2011

(New Orleans, LA) – Today, a federal court rejected the State of Louisiana's effort to dismiss a lawsuit regarding the State’s failure to offer public assistance recipients the opportunity to register vote.  The court’s ruling means that public assistance clients and the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP can proceed with a lawsuit claiming that the Louisiana Secretary of State, the Department of Children and Family Services, and the Department of Health & Hospitals are disenfranchising minority and low-income voters by failing to offer them the opportunity to register to vote as required by the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).

“The State must be held accountable for its continuing violations of federal law, so that all Louisiana citizens have an opportunity to vote,” said Dale Ho, Assistant Counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which is representing the plaintiffs along with Project Vote, a Washington D.C.-based voting rights organization, and New Orleans attorney Ronald Wilson.

The NVRA requires public assistance agencies, such as food stamps and Medicaid offices, to offer their clients the opportunity to register to vote with every application for benefits, renewal, recertification, or change of address transaction. The plaintiffs’ complaint cites evidence showing that Louisiana agencies are failing to carry out their responsibilities under this law.

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