|Project Vote Applauds Justice Department Enforcement of NVRA in Illinois|
December 19, 2008
WASHINGTON, DC – Following an investigation that found evidence of widespread violations, the Department of Justice (DOJ) today announced an agreement to bring the State of Illinois into compliance with provisions of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which requires state-funded public assistance agencies to offer voter registration services to clients. Nicole Kovite, director of Project Vote’s NVRA Implementation Project, issued the following statement in response:
Unfortunately, in the years since, too many states—including Illinois—have been neglecting these federal requirements. A 2008 study by Project Vote and Demos found that registrations through public assistance agencies have fallen an alarming 80 percent, to just over half a million in 2005-2006. Registrations in Illinois—never as high as they should have been for a state of its size—fell 74 percent in the same time period. Hundreds of thousands of low-income adult citizens in Illinois are not registered to vote and an equally large number of applications for public aid are filed in the state each year.
Project Vote has surveyed a number of states over the past several years to determine current levels of compliance with the NVRA. Our ongoing survey program reveals widespread noncompliance. These violations of the NVRA mean that states are not only missing the opportunity to register millions of low-income Americans every year, but they are also leaving themselves vulnerable to investigation and expensive litigation. Earlier this year the DOJ reached a similar agreement with the state of Arizona over non-compliance issues, and Project Vote has joined other advocacy organizations in bringing lawsuits against the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Ohio Secretary of State for similar NVRA violations. Project Vote has also sent letters to New Mexico, Florida, and Colorado notifying those states of their noncompliance with the law and subsequent vulnerability to litigation.
Project Vote has been working to bring many of these noncompliant states into compliance through technical assistance, advocacy, and litigation. We have long advocated on the federal level for the Justice Department to investigate violations of the NVRA and take steps to ensure that public-assistance clients have the access to voter registration to which they are legally entitled.
Today’s agreement is an important first step. Project Vote applauds the DOJ for enforcing this essential federal law, and we commend the state of Illinois for agreeing to fulfill its obligations to help public assistance clients register to vote.”
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