Citing clear evidence that the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) have violated their federally-mandated responsibilities to offer tens of thousands of public assistance clients opportunities to register to vote, a Massachusetts citizen and two community groups filed suit today for violations of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). Congress passed the NVRA to boost democratic participation by ensuring that all eligible citizens have ample opportunities to register to vote. Section 7 of the law requires state agencies that provide public assistance, including those that administer federal assistance programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, TANF, and WIC, to assist their applicants and clients in registering to vote.
Attorneys filed today’s suit on behalf of Bethzaida Delgado, NAACP New England Area Conference (NAACP-NEAC), and New England United for Justice (NEU4J). Ms. Delgado is a DTA client who is eligible to vote but was not offered the opportunity to register in her interactions with DTA offices over several years. The NAACP, the oldest, largest and most effective civil rights advocacy organization in the country, and NEU4J, a community organization, help low-income Massachusetts citizens register to vote. They seek concrete changes in DTA practices and procedures that will make voter registration available to every eligible public assistance agency applicant and client in the Commonwealth, as required by the NVRA.
The plaintiffs are represented by voting rights groups Demos, Project Vote, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, as well as the law firm of Ropes & Gray LLP. Defendants named in the suit are Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin and officials from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and the DTA. “The NVRA is the best law on the books for helping low-income citizens participate in our democracy, and states must follow it,” said Lisa Danetz, counsel for Demos. “It’s surprising and disappointing that Massachusetts is lagging behind rather than leading the charge.”