A federal appeals court revived a lawsuit saying Nevada public assistance offices weren’t doing enough to help low-income clients register to vote. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Thursday overturned a lower court’s move to dismiss the lawsuit over technical issues. The case, which was originally filed by NAACP branches in Reno and Las Vegas and the National Council of La Raza, will be reassigned to a new judge. “We applaud the decision, and we think it’s an important victory for civil rights groups who know how important the vote is,” said National Council of La Raza Vice President Eric Rodriguez, who added that the move was especially important in Nevada, with its growing Hispanic voter bloc and much-watched Senate race. “Efforts to restrict registration and suppress it really run counter to American values.”
The three civil rights groups sued the Nevada Secretary of State and the Department of Health and Human Services in 2012, saying Nevada public assistance offices weren’t complying with a federal law that aimed at increasing voter registration among the poor.
The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 requires welfare and food stamp offices to distribute voter registration materials to people who apply for benefits, and to help people fill out the forms if needed. It’s aimed at closing a wide voter registration gap between the rich and the poor by reaching out to people who might not have contact with the Department of Motor Vehicles — a traditional hub for voter registration.
“Trying to register the least among us is very, very difficult,” said Andrew Barbano, first vice president of the Reno-Sparks NAACP branch. “We always have to push back against any efforts to make registering to vote any harder.”