Since 2012, when a lawsuit was settled over voter registration issues, county assistance offices have submitted voter registration applications or change of address updates for more than 160,000 Pennsylvanians, according to a tally of statistics from the state. The lawsuit alleged that spot-checks and interviews with those who sought benefits at county assistance offices and through the Women, Infants & Children nutrition program showed that the state was not properly offering clients voter registration applications. Additionally, the state’s own statistics showed that it was failing to do what the law required, the complaint said. From 1995 to 1996, the state’s public assistance offices registered 59,462 voters, but during 2009 and 2010, only 4,179 voters were registered. The state settled the lawsuit shortly after it was filed.
Voter registrations from county assistance offices increased dramatically following the settlement. Registrations went from 5,498 in 2011 — the year before the suit was filed — to 10,311 registrations in 2012, the year the lawsuit was filed and settled to 47,028 voter registrations the following year. Statistics from the Department of State show 45,874 voter registrations last year from county assistance offices.
The lawsuit was one of several similar suits filed in a number of states over the National Voter Registration Act, the 1993 law often referred to as the “Motor Voter” act because people are offered the change to register to vote or update their voter registration at a driver’s license center.