The U.S. Department of Justice’s April 15 threat to sue Connecticut over failures in its “motor voter” program — which is supposed to promote voter registration at Department of Motor Vehicles offices — resulted in a closed-door meeting this past Tuesday aimed at resolving the problem out of court. Under “motor voter” programs that federal law requires states to operate, when someone applies to the DMV for a driver’s license (or a license renewal), that application must also include an opportunity to register to vote. Also, requests to the DMV for a change of address must also be forwarded to voting officials in applicants’ hometowns for updating of voter-registration information.
No resolution was reached at Tuesday’s meeting in Hartford by the state and federal officials who attended. Further discussions are planned as to how the state can satisfy the justice department that it’s doing enough in its “motor voter” program to comply with federal requirements in Section 5 of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act.
But, for the moment, perhaps the most interesting thing about the meeting was the unusual level of secrecy with which it was treated, as well as the high level of officials’ discomfort under the shadow of potential litigation by the feds.
Officials for the main parties involved — the office of Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, the DMV, state Attorney General George Jepsen’s office and the U.S. Department of Justice — were as tight-lipped as if this were a matter of grave security, instead of an effort to resolve differences over how to fulfill legal requirements for serving citizens who are eligible to vote.