A slate of civil rights groups put North Carolina on notice Monday, writing in a pre-litigation letter that the state must meet its voter registration obligations or risk a lawsuit. The letter alleges that the state’s motor vehicle and public assistance agencies are violating legal requirements set out in the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) to provide voter registration services to citizens and transmit registration information to election officials. The legislation, signed in 1993 by former President Bill Clinton and commonly referred to as the “motor voter” law, delineates that state motor vehicle agencies must provide voter registration services whenever a person applies for, renews or changes his or her address on a driver’s license or government-issued identification card. It also requires public assistance, disability and military recruiting offices to facilitate voter registration.
In a previous letter from May, the groups noted that the number of voter registrations originating from public assistance agencies dropped 66 percent from 2011 to 2014, from 42,988 applications to 13,340. The groups said that field investigations at state Department of Health and Human Services offices revealed that three-quarters of interviewees said they did not receive any sort of verbal or written opportunity to register.
Therefore, the civil rights groups say, the North Carolina DMV “systematically fails to transmit voter registration applications to elections officials within the time limits required by the NVRA when consumers indicate a desire to register.”
The drop in applications processed corresponds with the tenure of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who took office in January of 2013. His administration has said the decline is unintentional, and may be procedural in nature.